Dear Colleague Letter on School Counseling

Ensuring that students are college and career-ready is a top priority for the Obama Administration. President Obama has called for the United States to lead the world in college completion by 2020.

That’s why, as we prepare for the upcoming school year, the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Labor are working together to help local school systems around the country make use of the available resources to help ensure our young people are the best prepared workers in the world. Through this cross-agency collaboration, we are sharing information about how federal resources can help provide relevant and timely information so students can plan for their future careers.

The Departments have sent a jointly signed letter to education, workforce development, social services, and private-sector leaders around the country asking them to join us in our commitment to help high schools utilize the resources available to them through their local American Job Centers. We believe this effort will not only prepare our students for future jobs, but will secure the United States’ place in the global economy.

School guidance counselors play a critical role is preparing our students for college and careers, but the growing number of students compared to counselors may mean not every student can get the attention they need to find their path to their desired career.

That’s where the federal job training services can help. By leveraging the resources available from the nearly 2,500 American Job Centers around the country, schools can ensure their students are getting the most up-to-date information about the job market and what education and training is necessary to land their dream job.

In today’s global economy, opportunity and success have never been more closely linked to the education and skills you have.  That’s why connecting workforce services to education makes common sense.  These connections – which already help job seekers and employers to connect with one another – will help students better understand the skills they need to succeed in today’s job market, while they are in a position to make the decisions at an earlier age.

The American Job Center network can supplement the activities of school counselors by providing career development services and local labor market information, offering career counseling, resume and interview help, share information about Registered Apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs like Job Corps and YouthBuild, and create opportunities for summer and year-around youth employment.

Some states have already begun to integrate these services. In Wisconsin, school officials developed the Career 101 initiative that provides career information to students that promotes career awareness and supports learning about career opportunities. Or take Minneapolis Promise, a local initiative that uses private funding to locate College and Career Centers inside all seven Minneapolis public high schools and eight specialty high schools. The centers offer students career and college planning resources, trained career counselors to guide students, and an online career planning tool to help each ninth-grader develop a personalized “My Life Plan.”

These partnerships can help ensure that high school students have the information they need to be ready for college and careers, and alleviate some of the gaps in college and career counseling that is provided in high schools today.

Online PIAAC Data Explorer Launched

Cross-posted from the PIAAC Buzz newsletter; sign up to receive the Buzz directly. 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently launched a new interactive online web portal that will make it easy for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to build customizable data tables using the PIAAC data. This new tool supplements the information available in NCES’s First Look report—Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments Among U.S. Adults: Results From the Program for the Assessment of Adult Competencies 2012—and is designed to enable users to create their own data tables.

Like NCES’s First Look report, the PIAAC Results Portal reports average scores and proficiency levels in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. It can be used to compare U.S. performance to the international average and to the average in any or all participating countries.

You can also dig a little deeper by examining the data by a variety of characteristics. For example, if you are interested in how U.S. adults with different levels of educational attainment performed in literacy, you can create a table based on educational attainment variables. Likewise, if you are interested in what skills adults use at home and at work and how the use of these skills relates to performance in numeracy, you can look at that as well. There are many other variables to explore.

To make your searches easier, NCES has created profiles for two key subgroups, found under “Employment Status.” For example, the characteristics included in the “unemployed” subgroup profile include age, gender, race/ethnicity, U.S. born, and educational attainment. In addition to these characteristics, the “employed” subgroup profile includes occupation, industry of employment, and level of gross pay. After you have created your customized table, you have the option to export your data table to Excel.

You can access the PIAAC Results Portal directly from the PIAAC Gateway homepage.

Tuba City High School CTE Students Graduate with College Degrees

Tuba City High School awarded students in their Early Childhood Education (ECE) career and technical education program Child Development Associates (CDA) degrees. Tuba City is the third school in the nation to award CDA National Credentials to high school students. The program was developed in partnership with Coconino Community College and funded as part of a discretionary grant that was awarded to the State of Arizona by OCTAE.

The Tuba City CTE program and its seven CDA graduates were featured in articles in the Arizona Daily Sun and the Navajo-Hopi Observer.

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21st Century Employability Skills Webinar

Join the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) Thursday May 22, 2014 at 2pm (EDT) for a webinar to learn about strategies for integrating employability skills into high quality CTE programs. The webinar will address why employability skills matter from the federal and state policy and employer perspectives and demonstrate the potential uses of OCTAE’s newly updated Employability Skills Framework website. Implementation strategies for workforce systems, student organizations, and community colleges will also be shared.

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Comment Period Opens on Career Pathways Systems

Add your voice! Tell us what works and where states need help to develop career pathways systems. The response period begins April 23 and will be open for 45 days. Save the date May 1 from 2 to 3:15 p.m. EDT for a webinar for Q & A on this topic.

The departments of Education (ED), Labor (DOL), and Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced the release of a Request for Information (RFI) to support the development of high-quality career pathways systems. The RFI solicits information and recommendations from a broad array of stakeholders—those in the public and private sectors, as well as in state, regional, tribal, and local areas.

The RFI is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the participating federal agencies.

As detailed in the RFI, “… ensuring robust economic growth, a thriving middle class, and broadly shared prosperity will require a significant expansion of the skills and knowledge of American workers over the next few decades.” To that end, ED, HHS, and DOL are exploring opportunities to improve the alignment of their programs at the state, tribal, and local levels so as to support robust career pathways systems. The three agencies will analyze the information collected through the RFI to inform and coordinate their policy development, strategic investments, and technical assistance activities and to improve the coordination of federal policy development with investments at the state, tribal, and local levels.

This RFI marks the first time that the three departments are jointly collecting and analyzing information on “…the benefits of and challenges to aligning diverse funding streams, programs, and stakeholders around career pathway systems; and the current and potential future use of career pathways systems to help at-risk populations gain skills and access the middle class.” At-risk populations identified in the RFI include low-income youths and adults, out-of-school youths, individuals with disabilities, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients, tribal communities, English learners, immigrants, rural populations, veterans, currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, dislocated workers, and trade-affected workers.

Career pathways systems are seen as a promising strategy for meeting the skills challenge by offering distinct but complementary workforce, education, and support services that are aligned with the needs of business and industry. These systems have also demonstrated promise for meeting the individual—and complementary—goals of the three federal agencies. This RFI builds on the 2012 joint letter to promote interdepartmental career pathways approaches and on related efforts across the federal government to improve the coordination and cost effectiveness of workforce investments and economic development.

As stated in the RFI, it is expected that the analysis period will not only deepen the departments’ shared vision and understanding of career pathways systems, but will also generate essential information that can “inform policy development and the next generation of investments and technical assistance by providing us with greater clarity on the facilitators and obstacles to career pathways systems development.”

RSVP for a webinar about the RFI will be held May 1 from 2 to 3:15 p.m. EDT. (Must be logged into Workforce3One to register.)

Getting to “Yes”

Photo of students standing with Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and DATE Division Director Sharon Miller

Students gather for a photo with Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and DATE Division Director Sharon Miller

Earlier this week, Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier and I visited an Advanced Manufacturing Early College High School in Queensbury, New York. A partnership between the Hudson Falls, Queensbury, and Saratoga School Districts, the State University of New York (SUNY) Adirondack, and the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES, this high school enables students to earn up to 24 college credits, four nationally-recognized industry certifications, a Regents diploma, and a valuable internship experience.

Students (juniors and seniors) are dually enrolled in high school and SUNY Adirondack as non-matriculated students. They spend half of their day attending classes that are co-led by college faculty and BOCES instructors, and the other half of their day taking Regents-level courses at their home school. Their work is largely project-based, requiring them to solve real-world problems generated by the program’s extensive group of business partners. A current project involves the students developing an MRI cooling system for Queensbury-based Philips Health Care.

As part of the visit, we received a student-led overview of the program, a brief tour of an advanced manufacturing lab, and then conducted two round tables–one with administrators, teachers, faculty, and employers, and a second with teachers, parents, and students. What stood out among the comments, one employer said, “The wonderful thing about this program is that it helps students ‘get to yes!’” By this, the employer stated that many of today’s new and current employees see only challenges and barriers to their work. They lack the problem-solving skills to analyze data, synthesize information, work through failure, and persist to resolution. This program is helping students to gain these and other essential skills to help them prepare for college and careers!

Indeed, our nation needs many more high schools and CTE programs like this across the nation. In so doing, we’d be helping many more students “get to yes!”

Sharon Miller is the Director of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

DOL Web Event: Innovating @ the Speed of Business

Department of Labor to Host Live Stream Talk on Workforce System Innovations

Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez invites education stakeholders to a live stream talk on exciting and impactful workforce system innovations being implemented by DOL’s Workforce Innovation Fund grantees. Secretary Perez will kick off this first event in the Eye on the Workforce Innovation Fund Stakeholder Engagement Series, providing opening remarks on the impacts that these innovations will have on our nation’s workforce system. He will be joined by Kate McAdams, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Employment and Training Administration (ETA) Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Seleznow.

Register now to participate in Innovating @ the Speed of Business on March 27, 2014 at 2:15 PM ET. Workforce Innovation Fund grantees in Ohio and Pennsylvania  will share their strategies for engaging businesses and creating viable pathways.

During the event, everyone is welcome to post questions on Twitter using the hash tag #workforceinnovation. The project team will monitor questions on Twitter and answer them from the Labor Department Twitter account (@USDOL) during and after the event.

This stakeholder engagement series is designed to provide a national forum for the public workforce system to discuss the power and promise of innovation. It will afford ETA the opportunity to engage with its valued stakeholders and to learn about promising practices that can successfully help businesses thrive and Americans get good jobs.

 

Missouri and Texas CTE Students Win National Ag Day Essay Contest

Clara Knipp from Tipton, Missouri, and Brackston McKnight from Jacksonville, Texas were selected as the 2014 National Ag Day Essay Winners.

Clara’s essay entitled “Agriculture: 365 Sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths To Feed” compares the seemingly daunting challenge of feeding the world to the moon landing and encourages farmers, researchers, and educators to take “one small step” to meet that challenge. Clara is an Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) student and member of the Tipton, Missouri FFA chapter.

Brackston used still frame animation to win the top prize in the Video Essay category. Brackston is President of his FFA chapter and is planning to continue his education at Sam Houston State or Texas A & M University in his pursuit of a career in agribusiness.

Clara is scheduled to be recognized by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on March 25 at the Celebration of Agriculture Dinner where Brackston’s video will also be shown.

Finding Funds for Technology

The following appeared in the Teachers Edition on February 13 and could be helpful for High School CTE programs.

As the administration works to connect students to high-speed Internet through the E-Rate program, ED wants states and districts to remember they can use federal professional development dollars to support technology use. While ESEA and IDEA might not spell it out, states and districts can use some of the money to support “innovative technology-based strategies to personalize learning,” the Department says in a new Dear Colleague letter. For example, Title II funds can be used to help teachers improve their teaching through effective blended-learning practices.

Celebrate CTE Month!

Each year the Department of Education highlights the important role CTE plays in the lives of students and our country. February is Career and Technical Education month and CTE partners across the U.S. are joining the celebration.

The current edition of the OCTAE newsletter includes a message from Secretary Arne Duncan to the “students, parents, business, union and community leaders, educators all through the pipeline, and many more—who are helping to transform CTE and achieve our shared vision of educational excellence and opportunity for all students.”

Keep your eyes open for more activities celebrating CTE month and look for #CTEMonth on Twitter.