Feds release blueprint to spur career, technical education

Over the next decade, as many as two-thirds of all new jobs will require education beyond high school.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a blueprint to transform career and technical education (CTE) in order to provide high-quality job-training opportunities for students. These efforts aim to reduce skill shortages, promote business growth, encourage new investments and hires, and prompt innovation and economic growth.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the new efforts at the Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, where he also discussed the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

The Obama administration already has made investments to align classroom teaching and learning with real-world business needs.  ED and the Department of Labor are in the process of distributing $2 billion in Trade Adjustment Assistance grants to strengthen community college programs and workforce partnerships.

The FY 2013 budget proposes an additional $1 billion to help 500,000 (a 50 percent increase) high school students participate in Career Academies, programs offered in high school that combine college curricula with a career emphasis, such as healthcare or engineering.

As the nation recovers from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, 60 percent of jobs added nationwide last year went to those with at least a bachelor’s degree, and 90 percent to those with at least some college.

Over the next decade, as many as two-thirds of all new jobs will require education beyond high school.
In Iowa between 2008 and 2018, jobs requiring postsecondary credentials will grow by about twice as much as jobs for high school graduates and dropouts.  Yet educational attainment rates are not keeping up with demand – Iowa’s percentage of bachelor’s degrees is the lowest in the Midwest.

“In the knowledge-based economy, lifelong learning is so critical. And that means that the traditional mission of career and technical education has to change,” Duncan said. “It can no longer be about earning a diploma and landing a job after high school. The goal of CTE should be that students earn an industry certification and postsecondary certificate or degree–and land a job that leads to a successful career.”

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 introduced important changes in federal support for CTE.  These changes helped to improve the learning experiences of students, but did not go far enough to systemically create better outcomes for students and employers competing in a 21st century global economy.

Through a $1 billion investment in the Obama Administration’s FY 2013 budget, the blueprint for reauthorizing the Perkins Act will transform the Perkins program in four key areas:

  • Alignment:  Ensuring that the skills taught in CTE programs reflect the actual needs of the labor market so that CTE students acquire the 21st century skills necessary for in-demand occupations within high-growth industry sectors
  • Collaboration: Incentivizing secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers, and industry partners to work together to ensure that all CTE programs offer students high-quality learning opportunities
  • Accountability:  Requiring CTE programs to show, through common definitions and related performance measures, that they are improving academic outcomes and enabling students to build technical and job skills
  • Innovation: Promoting systemic reform of state-level policies to support effective CTE implementation and innovation at the local level

The Obama administration also has proposed $8 billion in the FY 2013 budget for a Community College to Career fund to train 2 million workers for high-growth industries.

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