Educated and Skilled to Lead America! SkillsUSA: Champions at Work!

Two student competitors sit at a table programming computers while a third student configures a computerized milling machine.

Students test their skills in an advanced manufacturing competition at the SkillsUSA NLSC.

Thank you dedicated students, advisors, state directors, alumni, and business partners for showing the world that SkillsUSA members are true Champions at Work! SkillsUSA returned to Kansas City June 23-27, 2014, for its 50th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC). I am honored to have witnessed the largest national conference it has ever held with the most participants in its history. It was the premiere showcase of career and technical education students. More than 15,000 students, teachers, education leaders, and representatives from more than 600 national corporations, trade associations, business and labor unions participated in the event. In addition, the 2014 NLSC marked the beginning of a year-long celebration as SkillsUSA turns 50 in May 2015! I have already marked my calendar to be in Leesburg, VA on May 8th for the birthday celebrations.

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Goes to President for Signature

An historic bipartisan, bicameral bill that amends and reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) through fiscal year 2020, has been passed by both the Senate and House and is headed to President Obama for signature.  H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which first passed in the Senate on June 25, cleared the House on July 9.  The bill makes key improvements to the nation’s workforce development system, helps workers attain the foundation skills necessary for 21st century jobs, and fosters a modern workforce to help make American companies be competitive. The bill emphasizes the creation of career pathway programs, improved integration and coordination of education and training services, development of sector based strategies, and streamlined service delivery to individuals, especially for underprepared youth and adults.

Key provisions include:

  • requiring states to develop unified plans and to use common accountability measures
  • eliminating the “sequence of services” provisions of WIA
  • providing the ability to fund training services through contractual arrangements, opening expanded opportunities for community colleges to participate in the federal workforce program
  • emphasizing regional planning and service delivery and sector based strategies

Stay tuned to the OCTAE Connection newsletter and the OCTAE blog for more information on how this new legislation will impact adult education, community colleges, and career and technical education programs.

New IES Partnership Research Grants Announced

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Center for Education Research (NCES) awarded eighteen new research grants under the Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy program (CFDA 84.305h).  In FY 2014, the Institute competed three topics under this program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research, Continuous Improvement Research in Education, and Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies. The topics support collaborations between research institutions and state or local education agencies on education issues of high priority for the education agency.  Total spending for these awards is approximately $18.6 million. Click on the grant titles below to learn more:

Awarded in the Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research Topic

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TSA Rocks DC

Over 6,800 students, parents, and advisors attended the 36th Annual National Technology Student Association (TSA) Conference in Washington, DC last week. I was privileged to be one of those. TSA is committed to students studying in Technology Education and those interested in a STEM career. Middle and high school TSA students traveled to DC from across the nation to network, compete, and share new ideas and skills that could be used in the future.

Photo of Elisabeth Stansbury, Robin Utz, and Caleb Gum standing in front of a banner at the National TSA Conference in Washington, DC.

Elisabeth Stansbury, left, and Caleb Gum, right, pause for a quick photo at the 36th Annual National TSA Conference in Washington, DC.

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Dear Colleague Letter Promotes Library-Adult Education Partnerships

This post is cross-posted from the Institute for Museum and Library ServicesUp Next Blog.

The recent results of the international “Survey of Adult Skills” estimated that 36 million Americans are low-skilled in literacy, and 3 million are eager to gain additional education and training but are hampered by barriers such as transportation, child care, and work schedules. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) are working together to encourage effective collaborations between libraries and federally funded adult education programs to help more Americans take advantage of the educational, employment, financial, health, social and civic resources that are available online.

IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin while attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin while attending the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

According to Pew Research Internet Project data, over 15 percent of Americans, including senior citizens, adults with less than a high school education, and people living in households earning less than $30,000 per year, are not using the Internet at all. And, while 74 percent of whites and 62 percent of African Americans have high-speed Internet access at home, only about half of Hispanics (56 percent) do.

Already, the nation’s more than 17,000 public libraries are providing computer access or free wireless Internet to America’s families. According to the report, “Opportunity for All,” over 77 million people, or nearly one-third of the U.S. population ages 14 and older, used a public library computer or wireless Internet in 2009. Of the library users in households living below the poverty line of $22,000 per year for a family of four, 44 percent visit a public library in order to get online. In fact, education was cited by 42 percent of responders as the main reason patrons used library computers and 24 percent of those users reported taking online courses or working on online assignments. In addition, employment and career –related activities were cited by 40 percent of responders as the reason they went to the library, 76 percent of whom were looking for jobs.

In light of this situation, IMLS and OCTAE recently announced a joint Dear colleague letter released on June 24, 2014 by IMLS Director Susan Hildreth and OCTAE Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin. Susan and Johan recognize the important role libraries and adult education programs play in helping build digital literacy among adults. Joint activities include: increasing awareness about resources and training (see http://LINCS.ed.gov); developing literacy tutorials and guides; and collaborating with various associations and nonprofits to identify and disseminate examples of partnership activities the public adult education system and libraries are taking at the state and local levels.

According to Director Susan Hildreth, “Libraries have a long history with literacy programs and reaching residents. We hope this program will help connect youth and adults more seamlessly to learning opportunities online and at their local adult education and community college programs.” Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin said, “Libraries and adult education programs are natural partners; together we can strengthen the on-ramps to digital literacy and learning. Their joint goal is to enhance skills, employability, and quality of life for all American, and especially for those youth and adults with low skills.”

For more information see OECD (2013). Time for the U.S. to Reskill?: What the Survey of Adult Skills Says, OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing

- See more at: http://blog.imls.gov

White House Maker Faire Highlights the Value of CTE

“If You Can Imagine It, Then You Can Do It — Whatever It Is”

These were among the inspirational words shared by President Obama at the first-ever White House Maker Faire on June 18. And, Camille and Genevieve Beatty, 14- and 12-year old entrepreneurs from Asheville, North Carolina, showed just how true these words can be. They, along with their dad, Robert, are co-founders of Beatty Robotics, a project that began as a tech blog to share their innovative projects and has grown into a company that builds custom robots for museums and prototype robots for part manufacturers.

Photo in the White House with Sharon Lee Miller and Margaret Romer standing with Camille and Genevieve Beatty of Beatty Robotics, Dale Doherty, President and CEO of Maker Media and Creator of Maker Faire and Dale's wife Nancy.

Sharon Lee Miller and Margaret Romer of the Division of Academic and Technical Education stand with Camille and Genevieve Beatty of Beatty Robotics and Dale Doherty, President and CEO of Maker Media and Creator of Maker Faire. Also pictured is Dale’s wife Nancy.

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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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Department of Labor Career Pathways Webinar

On Wednesday, June, 4, 2:00-3:00 pm ET, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) will host the latest event in its Eye on the Workforce Engagement Fund Stakeholder Engagement Series. Hosted by ETA Deputy Assistant Secretary Eric Seleznow, the webinar, Advancing System Alignment and Career Pathways Innovations, will feature Workforce Innovation Fund grantees from California, Rhode Island, and Washington State. Mr. Seleznow will lead the panel in a discussion of emerging innovations in creating effective, integrated, and sustainable career pathways systems.

Registration is open and free.

Get engaged! Tweet questions for the panelists during the June 4 webinar to @USDOL using #workforceinnovation and post comments and questions about engaging business/industry and advancing career pathways on the bottom of the project web page.

If you missed the Department’s Innovating @ the Speed of Business live panel discussion in March, you can view it now.