Join OVAE in San Antonio at the National Career Pathways Network

OVAE will be contributing insights and updates at the 2013 National Career Pathway Network conference in San Antonio, Texas on October 14 and 15, 2013. The event is hosted by the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) and will feature speakers and sessions to help educators, workforce development professionals, business and industry experts, and economic development partners build and enhance career pathways in their communities.

Read More

Maine CTE: It’s Not Your Parents’ Vocational Education

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

Students at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology in Biddeford, Maine are excited about learning — and they’re eager to tell you why.  They can also show you some pretty impressive proof that they’ve mastered the concepts they’ve studied.

Take, for example, the house they built as the capstone of one project.

Programs at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology

A selection of CTE programs offered at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology

“It’s not just about wiring a house, it’s about the theory and science [of] what is actually happening in the wires. In my other classes, you don’t really get hands-on, you just do what’s in the book,” a senior at the Center recently explained to visitors from the U.S. Department of Education.

Part of my role as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF) is to help teachers and other educators around the country learn about the Department’s efforts to support world-class teaching and learning. But, it’s just as important for us to bring teacher, principal, and student perspectives back to policymakers in Washington. For both those reasons, I traveled to Biddeford.

Right now, there’s an important shift taking place in schools and districts across the United States: a shift away from vocational education, and toward career and technical education, or CTE. The narrow vocational training of our parents’ and grandparents’ day was often separated from the college preparatory curriculum, and geared to the needs of the industrial age. Today’s CTE programs are designed to meet the needs and opportunities of the global economy and the digital age, and prepare students for equal success in college and careers.

When change is this ambitious, it can take a while for old perceptions to catch up to new realities. CTE teachers and students in CTE courses often find themselves having to correct the belief that CTE courses are less rigorous than traditional “college prep” classes. The experiences of the students and teachers at Biddeford certainly debunked this myth.

Biddeford offers professionally certified programs in career fields like legal studies, architecture, early childhood education, and health sciences. The students told us they feel good about learning a combination of academic, technical and employability skills that will equip them for success in college and in the 21st century’s technology-rich, team-based, results-oriented professions.

The teachers we spoke with called the Center “a direct link to college.” They explained that participating in the Biddeford program helps students set their sights on postsecondary education, giving them confidence in their abilities and real-world opportunities to apply ideas. A health sciences teacher, for example, spoke proudly of Biddeford graduates who are now in medical school or have launched careers as pharmacists, physical therapists, and registered nurses.

The CTE students at this regional center attend their home school for half of the day. Then, they travel by bus to Biddeford, to spend the second half-day in courses directly related to a career pathway, including work-based learning and other activities that require them to think critically, put theory into practice, and serve as constructive team members.  They graduate with a high school diploma and certification in their field.  This allows them to go directly to work in high-demand jobs, or continue their education at a community or four-year college.

A senior electrical engineering student explained the extra value he’ll be able to provide to his employer, beyond a strong grasp of the scientific skills his field requires. That added value is leadership: something he’s been able to practice in his classes, and as a member of a student council that offers peer-to-peer outreach.

Secretary Duncan has said that “a career-ready student must have the knowledge and skills that employers need from day one. That means having critical thinking and problem-solving skills, an ability to synthesize information, solid communication skills, and the ability to work well on a team.”

As these learners discussed the house they’d built, it was clear that they’re engaged in something worlds away from the “voc ed” of a generation ago. They didn’t just pound nails into 2 x 4 planks. Instead, they applied a wide range of academic and technical skills – from architectural design principles, to safety rules, to the physics of wiring. They also exercised the key critical thinking and communication skills they’ll need to get ahead, no matter what professions they ultimately pursue.

As one student put it, “If communication isn’t happening, that’s a safety issue – and the project doesn’t get completed.”  You can’t get much more real-world than that.

The students at Biddeford showed us what today’s career and technical education can look like: CTE that prepares 21st century learners for the demands of 21st century college and careers.

Kareen Borders is a 2012-2013 Full-Time Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education.

Read the Department of Education’s Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education

July 10 Release Event of OECD Report on Postsecondary CTE in the U.S.

REMINDER: The New America Foundation will be streaming the release event of the OECD’s U.S. country report on postsecondary CTE tomorrow, Wednesday, July 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET. Click here to access the live stream. If you’re not available to watch the event live, it will be recorded and archived on the New America Foundation’s website afterward.”

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education is pleased to announce the upcoming release of a special OVAE- and NCES-funded report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the state of postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) in the United States. 

Read More

Tomorrow–Webinar on Building a System of High-Quality Career Pathways

The National Center for Innovation in Career and Technical Education (NCICTE) will be presenting the first webinar in a four-part series on Building a System of High-Quality Career Pathways: High School Transformation and District Supports, beginning tomorrow, July 10. Attendees will learn about college and career readiness and its significance for high school students. To register for the first webinar, which will take place on July 10, 2013 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. EDT, click here.

Transforming CTE for the Global Economy

Johan Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for OVAE, was a featured panelist at the 2013 U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference in Austin, TX on June 18.  The session, which focused on “Transforming Career and Technical Education for the Global Economy,” was moderated by Mimi Lufkin, the CEO for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). 

Read More

College and Career-Ready Conversations in South Seattle

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog.

“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

Join a Webcast from the Career Clusters Institute

Participate in the the live webcast on Applying Lessons Learned from Career Technical Education to Adult Career Pathways by tuning in online and submitting questions via social media. The event will be held tomorrow, June 11, 2013 from 8:45 – 9:45 AM CDT. On the panel will be:

Albert Palacios, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education

Blake Flanders,  Vice President for Workforce Development,  Kansas Board of Regents

Brian Durham, Senior Director for Academic Affairs and Career & Technical Education, Illinois Community College Board

Moderator, Hope Cotner, Vice President, U.S. Projects, Center for Occupational Research and Development

To view the webcast online, click on the following link to register: https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e7jr6i6z4388cb0e&oseq=&c=&ch= 

To submit your questions,  “Like” the Adult Career Pathways Support Center on Facebook, or “Follow” the Center on Twitter (@Career_Pathways) and tweet your questions using the hashtag #createpathways.

Next week: OVAE at the National Career Clusters Institute

OVAE will be sharing updates and information at the 2013 National Career Clusters Institute in Fort Worth, Texas next week. Hosted by the National Career Technical Foundation of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), the annual event brings together educators, counselors, state leaders, workforce development professionals, business and industry experts, and economic development partners to share insights and strategies for coordinating educational delivery in communities and states.

Read More

College-Bound Students Choose CTE Pathways in High School

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier has her blood pressure measured by Cassandra Eddy, a student at Union County Vocational-Technical School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey  - credit Kathryn Forsyth, NJCCVTS

Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier has her blood pressure measured by Cassandra Eddy, a student at Union County Vocational-Technical School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey
- photo by Kathryn Forsyth, NJCCVTS

Rutgers University. Yale University. Northeastern University. Stevens University. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. These are among the colleges that seniors from Union County Vocational-Technical Schools in Scotch Plains, New Jersey are headed this fall.

As one parent of a Yale-bound senior put it, “This is what high school should be for every student.” The Administration agrees, having issued both its blueprint for Perkins reauthorization in April 2012 and proposed a $300 million High School Redesign in the FY 2014 budget. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier states, “Our students shouldn’t have to make a decision between college or a career; every student needs to be prepared for both.” Union County Vocational-Technical Schools has turned this vision into a reality and, at the same time, become a school of first choice for students in Union County. Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier had the opportunity to experience the vision first-hand during her recent visit on May 23.

It used to be that enrollment in career and technical education, much less a full-time area career center, would not be the best option for students preparing for college, particularly at one of the leading universities in the nation. Union County Vocational-Technical Schools has fundamentally changed this situation and now makes enrollment in career and technical education the “sought-after option” for high school students.

Union County Vocational-Technical Schools offers five academy schools on its campus, including The Academy for Allied Health Sciences, The Academy for Information Technology, and a Magnet High School which focuses on STEM-related programs. Students participate in rigorous academic courses that are integrated with their career and technical education courses, complete work-based learning, earn college credit for courses taken during high school, and earn industry-recognized certificates.

School administration officials attribute their schools’ success to ongoing partnerships with business/industry and postsecondary education to develop and implement their programs. Students credit the teaching staff and career guidance counselors who help them acquire work-based learning opportunities, complete FASFA forms, and submit college applications. Parents recognize the entire school team for helping students gain the academic, career-related, and employability skills that help them prepare for their future.