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Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems


Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems focused on building the capacity of states and local communities to integrate career and technical education programs of study into their broader Career Pathways System development efforts. Five states— Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Oregon— were selected through a competitive application process to participate in the three-year technical assistance project, managed by Jobs for the Future. The initiative paired each participating state with a coach and provided access to subject matter experts to help guide career and technical education programs of study and career pathways alignment efforts. Virtual meetings augmented technical assistance and allowed state teams to exchange ideas.

Each participating state convened a cross-agency leadership team that included representatives from public K-12 (including career and technical education); community college and four-year institutions; adult education, workforce development and economic development agencies; and employer and local system partners. States also selected a local partner to provide context on the ground for state system building efforts. Each state team met quarterly with their teams and coach.

In Phase II of the project, OCTAE partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to expand the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project focus to transportation career pathways. Phase II of the project highlighted the significant number of career opportunities that will become available in the transportation industry over the next 10 years and laid the groundwork for developing career pathways in those occupations.

The Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems initiative focused on building the capacity of states and local communities to integrate career and technical education programs of study into their broader career pathways system development efforts. This three-year technical assistance project, managed by Jobs for the Future, paired each participating state with a coach, and provided access to subject matter experts to help guide career and technical education programs of study and career pathways alignment efforts. The states also participated in virtual meetings to exchange ideas among state teams and to augment technical assistance.

In November 2012, OCTAE invited states to apply to participate in the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project. Project efforts were designed to assist states in building their capacity to integrate career and technical education programs of study into their broader Career Pathways System development efforts. Five states were selected through a competitive application process to participate in the project. A copy of the Project Overview advising states of the opportunity follows.

Five states—Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Oregon—were selected through a competitive application process to participate in the project. Each state convened a cross-agency leadership team that included representatives from state public K-12 (including career and technical education), community college and four-year institutions, adult education, workforce development, and economic development agencies. Other participants included employers and local system partners. Each state met quarterly with their teams and coach to work toward their goals for the project. A local partner also was selected to provide a context on the ground for state system building efforts.

  • Colorado
    • Before Colorado began its Career Pathways System development efforts, it worked to establish sector partnerships in key industries in the state. Colorado’s Regional Sector Partnership Convener Training Workbook defines sector partnerships as “collaborations of employers within one industry sector or cluster that work closely with government, education and training, economic development, labor and community organizations to focus on the workforce and other competitiveness needs of their industry.” There are currently 14 sector partnerships in Colorado (as seen on this map).

      As part of the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project, Colorado developed Creating Career Pathways in Colorado: A Step-by-Step Guide, for building industry-driven career pathways. The document outlines the steps education and training providers can take to implement career pathways in partnership with industry, economic development, and workforce development. The Northern Colorado Manufacturing Partnership (NoCO) was the first region in the state to pilot the Step-by-Step Guide, identifying the top occupations within manufacturing in their region and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to perform the given occupations. In 2015, Colorado developed a Talent Pipeline Report, highlighting career pathways as a critical strategy for growing the talent pipeline.

      The Colorado team has also worked to develop a common set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of career pathways in the state—developing draft KPIs for Career Pathways that are intentionally aligned with the sector partnership key performance indicators.The draft career pathways KPIs will continue to be refined and advanced.

      Many of the Sector Strategy and career pathways sources are aggregated in a toolkit on CWDC’s Sector Summit site.

  • Kansas
    • To recognize employers who work closely with career and technical education and career pathways programs and guide conversations and partnerships with employers, the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) developed an Employer Engagement Initiative. Employers are awarded a level of recognition—Supporter, Partner, or Champion—depending on their participation level.

      At the local level, the Wichita region has established a Regional Manufacturing Council on Technical Education (RMCTE) that provides more than 30 manufacturers with a coordinated voice to influence education and skills training. Led by the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, along with the region’s secondary and postsecondary career and technical education systems, the council works to raise awareness about high paying careers in the manufacturing industry and identify the education and skill needs of the industry. Kansas plans to replicate this model in other industry sectors and areas.

      To increase connections between secondary and postsecondary career and technical education and better inform decision making about education choices and improve career navigation and counseling, the Kansas team is, as of November 2015, developing an online portal that will map secondary to postsecondary coursework in multiple programs of study. Users—students, parents, counselors, teachers, school administrators, state education and workforce officials, and employers—will be able to explore careers and map the coursework and credentials necessary to attain those careers. KBOR and the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) have also developed a Memorandum of Agreement and created a joint position between the two agencies to oversee pathways work begun under the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project.

      The activities that Kansas carried out as part of the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project built upon a range of actions the state has taken to expand career and technical education and career pathways including, Kansas’ EXCEL CTE initiative, which pays the tuition costs for high school students who take postsecondary coursework in pursuit of high demand credentials; Kansas’ GED Accelerator, which awards community and technical colleges with performance funding for students who concurrently earn a GED and an approved postsecondary credential and pays a portion of their postsecondary tuition; the State’s tiered funding model for funding postsecondary technical education which takes into account the increased costs associated with many postsecondary technical courses; and Kansas’ decision to establish a performance-based funding model for its postsecondary institutions, where new state funding is contingent upon meeting goals outlined in individual Performance Agreements that are approved every three years and evaluated annually.

  • Massachusetts
    • Massachusetts’ Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project, led by the Hampden Regional Employment Board (REB), focused on developing comprehensive career pathways in the Hampden County region, in particular a grades 9 through 14 advanced manufacturing program at the traditional high school and Springfield Technical Community College.

      Employer engagement has been key to the project. Project leaders surveyed regional employers and have built employer efforts around the Precision Manufacturing Regional Alliance Project (PMRAP)—which brings 38 advanced manufacturing employers in the Pioneer Valley region of Massachusetts together with area education and workforce and economic development stakeholders—to ensure employer involvement in the program. The REB helped establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which clarifies roles and responsibilities of all partners in the PMRAP.

      These efforts have culminated in the Massachusetts Advanced Pathways Program (MAPP), providing opportunities for Hampden County students to begin studies in advanced manufacturing while in ninth grade and seamlessly transition to postsecondary education with a head start on a credential and career in mechanical engineering technology.

      In the project’s second phase, the Hampden team worked to integrate Adult Basic Education into the Career Pathway project. Using a Collective Impact framework with the REB as the backbone organization, the team partnered with adult education providers, community colleges, vocational/technical institutions, and employers. The stakeholders created shared measurement indicators and a common agenda and focused on improving work readiness, job placement rates, and employer satisfaction in the region.

  • Minnesota
    • As part of its work on the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project, the Minnesota team agreed on a common cross-agency definition of Career Pathways Systems and programs. The two-page mission statement on behalf of the entire team articulates the need for cross-system partnerships to align program services and policies.

      To engage support for comprehensive career pathways from key stakeholders, the Minnesota team sponsored a statewide, cross agency summit in 2014 to share best practices. At the summit, the partnership from Rochester, Minnesota, delivered a presentation called It Takes a Village to Create a Career Pathway System, stressing the importance of partnerships in Career Pathways System development. As part of supporting a robust career pathway in Health Care Sciences, the Rochester Public Schools (RPS) developed a Health Science Career Center (HSCC) with the Mayo Clinic to encourage high school students to enter the health care field. The Rochester Public Schools and Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) also developed a committee called CARE (collaboration among Rochester educators) to expand efforts around mutually beneficial projects including opportunities for Adult Basic Education (ABE) students to take advantage of training at the HSCC, developing an additional pathway for students in the Health Science pathway, and incorporating navigators, career counselors, and college credits to open doors for students, many of whom have never been successful academically.

      Minnesota is also deploying pilots for employer engagement that are based on an employer-led civic alliance, the Itasca project. Participants agree on priority issues and work to achieve common goals, including working with schools to make them more responsive to labor market needs, reviewing curriculum to identify misalignment, and providing input to strengthen instruction. Itasca has created a structure for gathering employer input throughout pathways system implementation.

      Minnesota has ensured continuation of the work begun under the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project by designating the Governor’s Workforce Development Council (GWDC), the workforce investment board for Minnesota, as the state lead for career pathways work going forward. The GWDC established a standing committee—with full participation of the state’s career and technical education system—that will focus on aligning the state’s career and technical education POS and multiple career pathways into a comprehensive effort.

  • Oregon
    • In Oregon, team members quickly realized that they had different ideas of what career pathways should look like and used different language for describing career pathways and related strategies. To build a common understanding of pathways across the state, the Oregon team created a glossary of terms that clarifies programmatic terminology commonly used by state educators, helps to structure career pathways messaging in Oregon and ensures consistent understanding by state partners.

      Related to the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project, Oregon’s local partner, Rogue Community College (RCC), developed a Basic Health Care Certificate (BHC) that “stacks” and “lattices” to 11 allied health certificates and degrees to meet workforce demand in southern Oregon. The certificate, which is now part of the college’s Allied Health Care program, can lead to multiple pathways in career and technical education and career pathways, including Nursing Assistant, Community Health Worker, EMT, Health Care Informatics, Medical Assistant, Human Services, Clinical Lab Assistant, Nursing (RN), Dental Assistant, Fitness Technician, and Massage Therapy. Rogue developed the BHC by consulting with local industry to determine labor market needs and worked with area high schools to align the certificate to career and technical education programs and facilitate opportunities for dual credit.

The following papers build on lessons learned from both the innovative career and technical education and career pathways-related initiatives carried out in years past and the states and local communities that participated in the project. The policy briefs are intended to inform and support efforts to develop and expand comprehensive Career Pathways Systems that include career and technical education programs of study in states and local communities across the country.

In Phase II of the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems initiative, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) partnered with OCTAE to expand the Advancing Career and Technical Education in State and Local Career Pathways Systems project to include a focus on transportation career pathways. Phase II of the project included a number of activities to highlight the significant number of career opportunities that will become available in the transportation industry over the next 10 years and to lay the groundwork for developing career pathways in those occupations.

The Departments of Education, Transportation, and Labor have worked closely to project future employment, skills, skills gaps, and training needs within the transportation industry and its subsectors over the next 10 years.

The six transportation subsectors examined are:

  • Trucking Transportation
  • Highway Construction and Maintenance
  • Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation
  • Rail Transportation
  • Air Transportation
  • Maritime

Data across the six modal subsectors reveal the following strong workforce trends:

  • Across these six modal subsectors, the transportation industry faces major demographic challenges with job growth, retirement, and turnover.
  • Transportation industry employers are expected to hire and train roughly 4.6 million workers, an equivalent of 1.2 times the current workforce, to meet the needs of growth, retirement, and turnover in the next decade.
  • Preliminary analysis indicates that projected annual job openings are 68 percent larger than annual completions of related educational programs across selected transportation occupational groups. This highlights a significant skills gap that must be addressed to meet expected industry demand.
  • The jobs in greatest demand are semi-skilled and skilled jobs in operations and maintenance. For every future job opening in central services or construction in the transportation industry, there will be an estimated two jobs in maintenance and 21 in operations.

A fact sheet and full report are available below.

Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry: Fact Sheet (PDF, 540 KB)

Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry: Full Report (PDF, 4.36 MB)

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