More High Schools to Team Up with Employers

This week’s announcement of U.S. Department of Labor’s $100 million Youth CareerConnect initiative is exciting news for our nation’s high school students, employers, and communities.

At Jobs for the Future, we believe all high schools can benefit from partnering with employers, colleges, and the workforce system to build seamless pathways through college and into technical careers. And thanks to funding from Youth CareerConnect, 25 to 40 school districts will soon join this growing movement.

For over 10 years, we have seen students excel in early college high schools that enable them to earn up to two years of free college credit or an Associate’s degree. These schools engage, support, and challenge all students—especially low-income and first-generation college goers—to pursue higher education, with excellent results.

We also see promising employer/high school partnerships nationwide, including:

    • Carrollton, Georgia’s 12 for Life program (supported by Southwire, a leading wire manufacturer) where students have access to classroom instruction, on-the-job training and certificates, skill development, and employment opportunities.
    • West Springfield, Massachusetts’ Pathways to Prosperity project, where students pursue careers in advanced manufacturing on pathways that connect West Springfield High School with Springfield Technical Community College and local manufacturers.
    • And of course, Brooklyn’s well known P-TECH Early College High School.

We need more of these partnerships in this country to help ALL young people succeed in today’s economy and to address America’s skilled worker shortage. Youth CareerConnect can help provide a boost we need to ensure quality pathways to postsecondary credentials and high-demand careers.

 Marlene B. Seltzer is President/CEO of Jobs for the Future

Duncan to Grads: Follow Your Passion

Duncan at Morgan State

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered this year’s commencement speech at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md.

Summer is here and as recent grads take time to pause and reflect on their tenure in higher education, many may wonder what they will do with the rest of their lives and how they will use their degrees.

Follow your passion and help others. This was the common theme in Secretary Arne Duncan’s four commencement speeches this spring.

At the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Morgan State University, the College of the Menominee Nation, and Hostos Community College, the Secretary lauded athletic titles to academic championships.  He highlighted those that were the first in their families to graduate from college and at Morgan State University, touted the mother-daughter duo who earned their bachelors’ degrees on the same day.

“I did learn two valuable lessons in thinking about the future from my teachers, my family, and my mentors,” Duncan said at Morgan State University.

First, I learned the importance of following your passion — that your ability to adapt and be creative, to skillfully manage the inevitable uncertainty that would come, would, in large measure, determine one’s success in a knowledge-based, global economy…. Second, I learned I should strive to lead a life of consequence — to try to demonstrate my respect and gratitude to all those who had helped me growing up by working to help others.”

The Secretary expressed hope that graduates would run for school board, become teachers or tutor students so that they could positively affect their communities through education, regardless of the career path they take. He told graduates at the College of Menominee Nation that they were “a gift to [their] people,” but that with that gift came responsibilities and obligations to give back to one’s community.

He echoed this same call for action during his speech at Hostos Community College when speaking about the school’s namesake, Eugenio Maria de Hostos.

“For de Hostos, education was not just about getting a degree, it was about what you did with your degree,” said Duncan.

Duncan mentioned in more than one speech how the Obama Administration is committed to preserving investments in federal student aid and will continue to empower students and families through tools such as the College Scorecard and the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.

Other tools include programs such as Income Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn that can cap federal student loan payments at ten percent of a student’s income, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness which forgives student loan debt after working in the public sector.

Below are links to Secretary Arne Duncan’s commencement speeches this spring:

Robert Gomez is the higher education and youth liaison at the Department of Education and a graduate of the University of California, Irvine

Community Colleges – Road to Building Skills for the 21st Century

Innovation in the 21st century has reshaped the world of work and civil society.  Innovation has redefined the knowledge and skills necessary to support emerging sectors of the economy.  Raising the overall level of educational attainment for all of our citizens is critical and addressing the skills gap in key industries is essential.

Community colleges are uniquely positioned to design their curricula to match local labor market conditions, making them flexible and relevant to today’s economy and job market. They are open access institutions committed to providing job-relevant educational opportunities to a broad population of students in their local communities. And their graduates are finding that they are able to participate in a knowledge-based economy, which demands a far greater level of credentialing and skills development than ever before.

The challenge, then, for the United States and India is to think of ways we can promote more opportunities for our diverse and dynamic populations to access these and other educational opportunities. When we do that, we can begin to provide 21st century job-skills linked to the global economy and responsive to local community needs.

President Obama is looking to community colleges to play a key role in increasing the number of U.S. college graduates and helping more Americans get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in an increasingly interconnected global world.  In the United States, these institutions enroll more students than any other higher education sector, and almost half of all U.S. undergraduate students attend one of nearly 1,100 community colleges across the country.

Many of those colleges work closely with local employer partners to design course materials that lead to industry-recognized certificates and degrees.  And they are leading the way in preparing graduates for the fastest growing fields in the United States, such as healthcare, applied engineering, and green technologies.

India is faced with the similar challenge of educating its population for rapidly emerging fields, such as automotive and healthcare technologies, and is exploring best practices in the community college model to help prepare Indians for these new jobs.  It is taking steps to enable the development of a national network of community colleges in order to meet workforce demands and sustain its impressive economic growth and social prosperity as a nation.

In February, the U.S. was honored to participate in the International Community College Conference hosted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which focused on creating a network of 200 community colleges with strong ties to industry in order to equip more people with the skills and knowledge to drive India’s future.  Under Minister Pallam Raju’s leadership, the government has established the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) to coordinate and streamline the skill development efforts of the government and the private sector to achieve the nation’s skilling targets.

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College and Career-Ready Conversations in South Seattle

“Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge: to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.”  

- President Barack Obama, February 12. 2013

State Superintendent for Washington

State Superintendent for Washington, Randy Dorn speaks with teachers and staff members from the Department of Education

When President Obama spoke those words in this year’s State of the Union address, I felt like cheering.  As a science teacher, it’s my job to help students fall in love with learning and explore important questions about how the world works.  I also know the principles and problem-solving skills they’re mastering will help them succeed in today’s competitive global economy, where science, technology, engineering and math (or “STEM”) careers are on the rise.  And, through fellowships with the U.S. Department of Education, I’ve been paying even closer attention to how the Obama Administration’s proposals affect my work.

The President’s High School Redesign plan would invest in programs that re-invigorate the American high school experience for the 21st century.  Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and collaborating more closely with postsecondary, business and community partners are two ways that high schools can re-think their current model. I recently had an opportunity to visit a school that’s using both of these strategies when I accompanied Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education, on a trip to Cleveland High School in Seattle, Wash.

As teachers and school leaders across the country think about implementing the President’s plan, there’s a lot we can learn from schools that have already started down this path.  Cleveland High School was restructured as a STEM-themed school four years ago, and according to the principal, Princess Shareef, “There was no template set for us.” Instead, school leaders and staff had the freedom to innovate, meeting every week and including parents, employers and other partners in designing a new approach. The result?  A high school in South Seattle that provides a college-and-career-ready curriculum through project-based learning, and connects students with mentors from the surrounding community.

TAF post 2

Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education speaks with State Superintendent of Washington, Randy Dorn

During classroom walk-throughs, we spent time in a computer engineering class and talked with students engaged in a reverse-engineering assignment.  In this hands-on design project, students choose an everyday object like a toy car or a mechanical pencil, measure the object using calibration tools, design and draw blueprints, transform the blueprints into multi-view drawings, and create a mock assembly. The students we met clearly understand and excel in their subject.  They’re also confident that what they’re learning will empower them in the future.

One student said, “It’s really nice to have experience with the computer-aided design, and this will help with job preparedness. Most [engineering] jobs are looking for experience in graphic design.” Another added, “I’m learning how to solve problems and to communicate with my team every day. This is important for my career in the future.”

These students realize that, in today’s marketplace, they need even more technical skills and experience. The days of working in isolation are over: problem-solving and teamwork skills are essential for success in the 21st century.  At Cleveland High School, students learn to be effective collaborators through project-based learning.

As one student explained, “We get graded on work as a team. Communication is important and there are instances when the group doesn’t function and so you have to learn how to communicate in a better way. You also learn how to speak for yourself and develop a voice.”  A business leader at the table drew an appreciative laugh from the group by noting, “Yes, just like in the real world.”

Equipped with a full range of academic, technical and employability skills, students at Cleveland High School will be ready for the demands of the world that awaits them after graduation.  That’s good news for them and for the employers in their region.  It’s also great news for the country.

As Dean of Students Catherine Brown told the assembled students, employers and civic leaders that, by coming together to re-engineer Cleveland High School, “You’re not just thinking of your industry—you’re thinking about the common good of society.”  By focusing on relevant, real-world skills; by making STEM-themed learning, wrap-around services and broad-based partnerships a vital part of each school day; and by graduating college-and-career-ready students, this re-engineered high school is preparing the next generation of U.S. leaders in some of tomorrow’s most exciting professions.

Dr. Kareen Borders is a Regional Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education

Cooking up Change – Students Transforming the Future of Food in Our Schools

healthy schools logo
Today’s Lunch Menu: Tenacious Turkey Chili with a side of Sunshine Fries and a helping of Jalapeno- Infused Peach Crumble for dessert. Sounds delicious, right? Well believe it or not, this mouth-watering meal is not only tasty, affordable, and healthy- but was made entirely by high school students.

students prepareing for cooking up change

On Monday, June 10th, the U.S. Department of Education hosted student chefs from high school culinary programs as part of Cooking up Change, presented by the Healthy Schools Campaign. This healthy cooking contest puts student front and center by challenging them to create a great-tasting lunch that meets nutrition standards on a tight budget. After winning first place in their local Cooking up Change competition, eight teams of student chefs traveled to Washington to lend their voices, and their culinary creativity, to the national conversation about the future of food in our schools.

Picking the winner went beyond the taste buds. Each team was asked to discuss the inspiration for their meal and the various challenges they faced throughout the process. Many cited their culture as the basis for their dish. Team Memphis gave a shout out to famous Southern BBQ with their BBQ Chicken Tacos while Team Los Angeles stayed true to their roots with their Tex-Mex Cornbread and Black Bean Mountain dish- both equally delicious! The challenges were a common theme throughout the teams. Each team was given strict guidelines of 10 ingredients with a budget that mirrors the constraints that schools face across the country. These student-designed meals have been seen on school lunch menus across the country, including their very own cafeterias, proving that cafeteria food can truly be both balanced and delicious!

students distributing food

With full stomachs and smiles all around, the winning team was chosen. Team Orange County, Cesar Amezcua, Cecilia Magana and Carlos Ortiz, culinary students from Valley High School took home the top prize for their dish “Pita Packs a Punch,” with Hot and Sweet Slaw and Delicious Apple Crepes. Not only was their dish healthy and packed with flavor, but their stories were inspirational. The students spoke of their plans to attend vocational colleges to achieve their dream of becoming executive chefs, each will be the first in his or her family to attend college.

“This was so important to us because we want to make a difference in our school”, said Amezcua, and he was able to achieve just that.

Congrats Team Orange County and to all the student chefs! And of course, many thanks to those who help our students learn the importance of healthy lifestyles.

For more information on the Healthy School Campaign, follow @HealthySchools and join the conversation with #CookingUpChange.

Kelsey Donohue works in the Office of Communication and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. 

i3 Grant Provides STEM Graduation Path for Colorado Students

Skyline High School students show their math and science skills through trebuchet building during the summer session of STEM Academy. Eighty-eight students participated in this summer’s 4-week program funded by an i3 grant.

Thanks to the implementation of a five-year, $3.6 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Skyline High School in Longmont, Colo., is getting a second chance.  Six years ago, Skyline was considered a “ghetto school with low expectations and low requirements,” said principal Patty Quinones. Today, everyone is focused on the bright future ahead. “It is exciting now to see families talking realistically about college,” she said.

The exciting changes at Skyline are in large part due to the school’s STEM Academy program—made possible through the 2010 i3 grant. The Academy focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum and includes collaboration between the St. Vrain Valley School District and the University of Colorado Boulder. The Academy’s goal is to provide 400 high school students with an alternative path to graduation through a STEM certificate program. This program develops students’ 21st century skills to prepare them for future career opportunities.

The i3 STEM Academy project, which will operate through the end of the 2014–15 school year, also addresses the literacy and mathematics achievement needs of 400 elementary and 550 middle schools students in feeder schools to Skyline High School. Working with the elementary and middle school students ensures better preparation for the STEM curricula in the high school program.  As a development grant in the i3 program, this K–12 project intends, by the end of its fifth year, to sustain its efforts across the three grade levels, and to replicate them in schools throughout the St. Vrain Valley School District.

During the STEM Academy’s 2009-10 inaugural year, 103 ninth- and tenth-grade students began the program; during this school year there are 291 students, with 41 graduating this spring. Students who satisfy the requirements of the STEM Academy program are guaranteed admission to the University of Colorado at Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science because of the school’s direct partnership with the University.

Skyline High School student works on her field rocket project during the summer session of STEM Academy.

Regina Renaldi, St. Vrain’s executive director of priority programs, says that the unique requirement of the i3 grant has built bridges between the business community and the St. Vrain school community.  “Our partnership [with corporations] allows students the opportunity to collaborate with experts in the field; students participate in roundtables discussions and design challenges where brainstorming and feedback are from engineers and scientists,” she said.  “Students aren’t interested in simulations; they want real-world opportunities for thinking, learning and problem-solving.”

The director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Muñoz, recently visited Skyline High School for a roundtable discussion on Career and Technical Education with Colorado educators and business leaders. The roundtable began after a tour of the school, which included visiting with elementary and high school students.  Promising to share what she saw  with her colleagues in the West Wing of the White House, Muñoz said, “I can assure you I’ll take this back to Washington. It’s going to inform the work that we’re doing in the educational sphere.”

While it is still too early to conclude how the i3 project has affected long-term student outcomes, the i3 grant has enabled a school that was once dismissed as a lost cause to have a positive impact on the outcomes of its current students. Through this program, these students now see their dreams of going to college as a reality. “We are doing true transformation here; not just shifting kids from one school to another,” said Don Haddad, superintendent of St. Vrain Valley School District. “This is what real reform looks like.”

Diana Huffman is a public affairs specialist in ED’s Denver Regional Office

On Dec 11, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education announced that the St. Vrain Valley School District was one of 16 winners of the Race to the Top – District Competition.

Celebrating CTE in Nevada

Brenda Dann-Messier at Veterans

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier talks with students at Veterans' dispatch training lab. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

Traditionally, education has led many students into a career. However, at some schools, careers are leading students to an education.

Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier recently met with the students, staff, and business partners of the Veterans Tribute Career & Technical Academy in Las Vegas to discuss career and technical education (CTE) and how it benefits students and the community.

Dann-Messier’s visit was part of ED’s Education Drives America back-to-school bus tour, and one of many stops she made during the tour to discuss the blueprint for transforming career and technical education and ways the Department of Education can support CTE education.

Student Marcus Montano explained during the visit that he chose to attend Veterans because he wanted a “real-world education and not just standard curriculum.” The school has two program areas, Law Enforcement Services and Emergency Medical Services, with multiple labs that allow hands-on learning experiences.

The type of CTE taught at Veterans increases motivation for students in all areas of study, as they realize the direct connection between the core curriculum and a career. Student Leah Bories said she felt “limited by not having the right teacher or the right material. I wanted this so bad. I want to learn. I want to succeed.”

Dann-Messier at Desert Rose

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier talks to a students in the Environmental Horticulture Science program at Desert Rose Adult High School. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

Veterans’ partnership with local employers is the type of community collaboration promoted in ED’s CTE blueprint. The community and business partners are also benefiting from Veteran’s unique career training. Students from Veteran’s are turning internships at local businesses into careers upon graduation. Some students have even used their training at Veteran’s to become dispatchers for emergency services, which is helping them pay for college. Sgt. Dan Lake of the North Las Vegas Police Department believes the program is future-focused, because “students can begin to build a future as juniors in high school.”

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier also held a roundtable at Desert Rose Adult High School and Career Center, in North Las Vegas, to hear how CTE is being used to help students find success. Desert Rose serves a diverse population of students, many of whom have previously dropped out or become credit-deficient.

At Desert Rose, students can learn multiple trades while obtaining high school credit at their own learning pace. This combination of CTE and personalized learning has led to many students achieving success.

Senior Elizabeth Gomez said that this personalized focus is helping her succeed in school and getting her ready for a job. “I have a really good resume now” she said. The blueprint for transforming CTE calls for accountability for improving outcomes and building technical and employable skills. Desert Rose students are already realizing the benefits of obtaining such skills at a young age.

Some students have already obtained a job through the CTE offered at Desert Rose. After winning numerous awards, including a gold medal from the Skills USA competition, and obtaining multiple certifications from Desert Rose high school, student Keith Griffin was able to find a job in Hawaii and is preparing to move his family “from the desert to the tropics,” he says.

Aaron Bredenkamp is a 2012 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches at Westside Career Center, an Alternative High School in Omaha, NE. He joined Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier during her visit to Las Vegas.

Wyoming Is Ready to Work: Bus Tour Day Three

Town Hall at Laramie County Community College

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier, Under Secretary Kanter and Chief of Staff Weiss joined Laramie County Community College President Joe Schaffer for a community town hall. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Rock Springs: Celebrating career academies

A four-year college education isn’t for everyone. Both President Obama and Secretary Duncan often note the importance of community colleges, technical and career programs to the future of our country’s economic health. Earlier this year, the Administration proposed a new blueprint for transforming career and technical education (CTE) that would dedicate $1 billion to provide high-quality job-training opportunities that reduce skill shortages and spur business growth.

The CTE blueprint would also expand career academies by 3,000, which brings us to Friday’s first back-to-school bus tour event at Rock Springs High School in Rock Springs, Wyo. Rock Springs High has two career academies, one focused on energy the other on health care. Career academies combine college-prep work and career and technical curricula, and help prepare students to continue their education at the postsecondary level and for successful careers.

Under Secretary Martha Kanter, Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss and Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier toured Rock Springs’ academies and held a roundtable with school officials, teachers and students.

After hearing from former Rock Springs’ students how the academies prepared them for careers after high school, Kanter noted that Rock Springs is an “island of excellence,” and also praised the students and school for having so many girls in the energy program and interested in engineering. (Young women are commonly under-represented in science, technology, engineering and math programs.) After boarding the bus for our next stop, we all commented how inspired we were by Rock Springs, and how important it is that these model programs not remain islands, but rather expand throughout the country.

Read more about this visit from Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss.

Rawlins: Positive developments in distance learning

Following our visit to Rock Springs, the Education Drives America bus rolled on to the Carbon County Higher Education Center in Rawlins, Wyo. In this rural area, the Center is improving education opportunities through the use of distance learning.  Kanter and Weiss joined Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White for a roundtable discussion with school officials, teachers, parents, students and business leaders.

Kanter asked the group what they viewed as their biggest challenges. One teacher noted that there is a great need for technological infrastructure and support, and a local energy business leader explained that students aren’t coming out of high school with the necessary skills to work for his company.

ED leadership tour a wind turbine

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier and Under Secretary Kanter climbed inside a wind turbine after the town hall. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

We could see that bringing business and school leaders together was an important step in this bus tour stop, and we look forward to seeing exciting new public-private partnerships in this area of Wyoming.

Cheyenne: Linking education and jobs

The Education Drives America bus made its final stop of the week at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne. Surrounded by massive wind turbines, Kanter, Weiss and Dann-Messier held a town hall to discuss the important link between education and jobs. The trio fielded a variety of questions, and Kanter spoke to the importance of community colleges while Dann-Messier noted that Laramie was an example of how public-private partnerships are helping students and the local economy.

See what people were saying on Twitter during day three, and watch this video summary of our day in Wyoming:


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

The bus parked over the weekend and will be back on the road Monday when Secretary Duncan rejoins the tour in Denver. Get email updates about the tour by signing up here.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement and is blogging and tweeting his way from coast to coast during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

Wyoming Career Academy Feeds Local Demand for Energy and Health Care Workers

Roundtable discussion at Rock Springs High School

The roundtable discussion at Rock Springs High School highlighted the school's career academies. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

In Wyoming, where the Education Drives America tour stopped Sept. 14, the career academy at Rock Springs High School is a model worth shouting about, because it graduates students who are truly both college and career ready.

There are two academies at Rock Springs – energy and health care – both carefully selected in consultation with local businesses to reflect the economic needs of Sweetwater County and the surrounding region. In Wyoming, the energy sector is vibrant – coal, natural gas, wind, and even uranium. And health care is a huge need in every community. So the decision about where to start was clear. Plans are in place to add two new academies in the next couple of years.

The students take all of the required core high school courses they need for college entry. But they also take a full complement of courses in their “academy.” So, from sophomore year on, science, English, etc. are theme-focused. There are specialized courses as well – many taught together with the local community college, so students get dual credit.

 Every student does internships, and the internships are intense (and represent a big commitment from community members who are shadowed) – juniors and seniors are there every single week. The experience is rich. Interns get a deep sense of the workplace and establish connections and relationships that are meaningful and lasting. Most of the kids we talked to had gotten part-time paying jobs with people they had shadowed.
The teachers had a shared sense of mission. They were science teachers using career and technical education to make their teaching relevant. As one terrific teacher said, “In fields like health care and energy that require math and science, we have to show kids they can do this. We have to make math and science accessible. And we have to provide kids with places where it’s safe to fail – or they’ll never know they can succeed.”

One student said, “I didn’t realize I was interested in health care at all until I started at the career academy. I shadowed a nurse practitioner and now I have a job anytime I’m home for breaks. I’m studying to be a nurse.”

A parent told us about her son who earned a phlebotomy certificate as part of his health academy education. He’s now pre-med and is working his way through college being a phlebotomist–by far a higher paying job than he’d otherwise get, and it’s related to his field of study.

Another parent told us that her son is severely hard of hearing and that the health academy had opened a new world for him and changed his life trajectory. He’d only thought of health care professionals as doctors or nurses. But in the Rock Springs program, he was able to experiment with different options and find jobs that he could do well. “He’s a whole new person now,” she said, “empowered, and with a direction.”

An energy academy graduate, who’s now a freshman in college, said, “I have so much confidence and a direction about what I want to do with my future. I know so much [from high school] that I have a little bit of an advantage over the other kids in my college class.”

As a teacher concluded, “If each of us teaching in K-12 isn’t educating kids for a career, what are we in this for? Academic and career teaching and learning need to be on the same level of importance, and go hand-in-hand.”

Joanne Weiss is Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education

Students Provide Feedback on ED’s “Blueprint for Transforming CTE”

Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier recently met with student members from Career and Technical Student Organizations to discuss the department’s Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education (CTE).

“We’re really here to hear your stories and to listen,” Duncan told the students. “Honestly, you guys are doing some really interesting things. CTE is something that we really think has been an underutilized tool that helps young people build positive futures, stay in school and get good jobs.

Much of the discussion centered on the blueprint’s idea of CTE programs competing for federal money under the Carl D. Perkins Act. The opinion was generally positive, but some students voiced concern on states’ ability to judge quality CTE programs. For example, one student wondered whether a CTE program might be punished for being in low demand in a state, but in high demand in other parts of the country.

A personal story that was shared by a student officer in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) highlighted the impact of CTE programs for students. He moved to Pakistan when he was six and eight years later, came back to the United States to face many challenges with language barriers, navigating the educational system and with different school environments. One of the organizations that helped him was FBLA, “I made new friends, and it helped me figure out that what I really want to do is pursue a career in public service –and help people. [FBLA has] been a great experience for the last four years and helped shape the person I am today.”

Another important topic in the conversation was reshaping the public image of CTE. One student explained her disappointment of being turned away from her dream school because her previous CTE courses were not thought to be as rigorous as AP courses, which her school does not offer. Dann-Messier explained how the notion of CTE’s training for low-paying fields is far from the truth.  Many of the careers that CTE prepares students for are highly technical and in demanding occupations.

The voices of student members of Career and Technical Student Organizations are integral to transforming the CTE field. Innovation is going to come from the practical ideas of highly trained young people like the ones heard at this Student Voices Session.

The discussion is part of the ongoing Student Voices Series where students regularly engage with the Secretary of Education and Senior Staff to receive recommendations on current programs and future policies.

Samuel Ryan, Regional & Youth Outreach Associate, OCO

Weighing In on CTE Blueprint

“This administration believes that career and technical education is central to rebuilding our economy and securing a brighter future for our nation,” said Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, at last week’s release of the Obama Administration’s blueprint for transforming career and technical education (CTE). “Our federal investment in CTE must be dramatically reshaped to fulfill its potential to prepare all students, regardless of their background or circumstances, for further education and cutting-edge careers,” she said.

The education and business community, as well as members of Congress, have been weighing in on the blueprint. Here is a sample of what they’re saying:

Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education: “If the nation is to prepare all students for college and a career, career and technical education must be an essential part of the education reform process and a key component of the nation’s education system. The Obama administration’s blueprint is an important step in that direction.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA): “Career and technical education plays a critical role in ensuring that students have the 21st century skills necessary to find jobs with salaries that support them and their families.  I want to commend Secretary Duncan for bringing attention to the need for more alignment, collaboration, accountability, and innovation, as well as the need for equity.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA): “I applaud the Administration for focusing on this issue and building on the successes of the career and technical education programs that help so many students get the skills they need to be successful in the workplace,” Senator Murray said. “The economic struggles we’ve faced as a nation have made clear that it is more important than ever that students have access to quality CTE programs. These vital programs give them the skills and credentials they need to meet the demands of 21st century careers.”

Stanley Litow, IBM’s vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and president of the IBM International Foundation: “I want to applaud the Department and Secretary Duncan’s work. This blueprint will better prepare America’s youth for college and careers. We often talk of a jobs crisis, but when you look at the data we really have a skills crisis and we really need action.”

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA): “Career and Technical Education has the potential to create jobs that will keep Iowa’s young talent in the state and make American students more competitive in the global economy.  We should continue to focus on preparing students to secure good jobs and to help grow our economy.”

Congressman George Miller (D-CA): “I applaud Secretary Duncan for continuing to make career and technical education an important component of our educational system. Today’s global economy increasingly demands more high-skilled and better educated workers more than ever before.  For our students’ success and to rebuild our economy, our high schools and colleges must ensure that students learn the skills needed by American business and industries.”

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI): “I commend Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier for providing a starting point for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. I wholeheartedly agree that CTE plays a central role in ensuring our students are both college- and career-ready. We cannot create the quality jobs our country needs unless we direct resources to support training programs that meet the needs of high-growth, high-demand and high-wage fields like biotechnology and information technology.”

Click here to read more about the CTE Blueprint.

Day Two Iowa: Improving Rural Economies & Transforming CTE

Richard Rice, a Hawkeye Community College student, shows Secretary Duncan a sculpture he designed in class. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

Richard Rice, a Hawkeye Community College student, shows Secretary Duncan a sculpture he designed in class. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

“I hadn’t taken an algebra class in 40 years,” community college student Jennifer DeLange told Secretary Duncan yesterday morning at a White House Rural Council Roundtable in Waterloo, Iowa. DeLange spent years working in a plastics factory, but when the plant shut down, she found herself unemployed in a tough job market. With the help of Trade Adjustment Assistance, DeLange enrolled at Hawkeye Community College and is working her way through the school’s LPN program.

The Hawkeye roundtable discussion was the first event during the second day of Duncan’s visit to the Midwest, and included Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Executive Director for the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers at the Department of Labor, Jay Williams, as well as students, faculty and business leaders.

The roundtable discussion centered on the importance of improving rural economies by training and retraining workers for in-demand careers.  During the discussion, Williams spoke to the importance of career training, explaining that “not everyone is going to get a four-year degree, but you have to have skills beyond high school.” Read more about the Obama Administration’s Community College to Career proposal that would train two million workers for in jobs in high-demand industries.

Transforming Career and Technical Education

Duncan’s second stop of the day was at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, where he joined Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, to release the Obama Administration’s blueprint for transforming Career and Technical Education (CTE).

“It’s no surprise that rigorous, relevant, and results-driven CTE programs are vital to preparing students to succeed in the global economy of the 21st century,” Duncan said at the event.

Through a $1 billion investment in the Obama Administration’s FY 2013 budget, the Administration’s 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.

Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier, who outlined the four key areas above, explained that “our federal investment in CTE must be dramatically reshaped to fulfill its potential to prepare all students, regardless of their background or circumstances, for further education and cutting-edge careers.”

Click here to read more about the Blueprint and for related resources, read our post from day one of Duncan’s trip, and check out our Storify Story from day two.