A New Blueprint for Career and Technical Education

Archived Information

A New Blueprint for Career and Technical Education

Remarks of Secretary Duncan at the Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny Campus

April 19, 2012

Before we start today's town hall discussion, I want to talk for a minute about the Obama administration's blueprint for reforming career and technical education, which we are releasing today.

I'm going to ask Brenda Dann-Messier from our department to also briefly flesh out some of the details about how we are proposing to transform career and technical education—or what's known as CTE.

Brenda is the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education. She has been a tremendous leader in this field for many years. She knows both the great possibilities and the real challenges of the nation's CTE system.

It won't come as a surprise to anyone here that rigorous, relevant, and results-driven CTE programs are vital to preparing students to succeed in the global economy of the 21st century.

In the information age, the strength of America's economy is inextricably linked to the strength of America's education system. And if America is to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, every American must have access to at least one year of higher education or postsecondary training at an affordable cost.

A world-class education system provides high-quality job-training opportunities that reduce skill shortages. It spurs business growth and encourages new investment and hires. And it sparks innovation and economic growth.

Unfortunately, too many of the nation's CTE programs fail today to meet the standard of being relevant, rigorous, and results-driven. And so the need to transform career and technical education for the 21st century is urgent. This is not a time to tinker.

In the knowledge-based, globally-competitive economy, lifelong learning is critical—and that means that the traditional mission of career and technical education has to change.

It can no longer be about just earning a diploma and getting a job after high school. The goal of CTE should be that students earn an industry certification and postsecondary certificate or degree, and land a job that leads to a successful career.

One reason I'm so pleased to be here today is that Iowa and Des Moines Area Community College are helping to lead the nation toward a new and better generation of career and technical education.

DMACC has been a leader in working with local districts to provide access to CTE for high school students. And it has been a leader in working with businesses to prepare adult students for high-growth, high-wage jobs.

DMACC has an extraordinary record of partnering with local school districts to help facilitate dual-credit opportunities in academic and CTE courses for high school students. In 2011, fully one in three students enrolled for credit at DMACC—nearly 13,000 students—are in fact joint enrollment-high school students. That's an amazing statistic.

Your Career Advantage program for high school juniors and seniors provides a terrific array of cutting-edge training in Auto Collision, Building Trades, Criminal Forensics, Web Page Design, and Health Occupations—to name just a few of the on-campus academies.

DMACC has more than 130 programs and certifications. They range from its famous Iowa Culinary Institute to the Electronic Crime Institute, where students work with experienced criminal investigators.

And DMACC doesn't just prepare students for high-growth, high-wage jobs. Through partnerships with companies like GM, Ford, Chrysler, Caterpillar, and Ziegler, it tailors training to the specific needs of employers.

For example, the Diesel Technology On Campus Academy trains students for a career in the area of diesel repair, and prepares them to work as a service technician on Caterpillar or Ziegler products.

DMACC's partnership with Accumold is another great example of relevant, rigorous, and results-driven CTE training. Accumold produces super-micro, plastic injection-molded parts for the medical, automotive, aerospace, and other leading industries.

Accumold has to build specialized molding machines to manufacture those ultra-precise components. And I am glad that Grace Swanson, the VP of Production at Accumold, is here today to share her insights into DMACC's Accumold-Tool and Die program and the Accumold Scholars program.

What's true for DMACC is, in many respects, true for the state of Iowa. Unlike many states, Iowa has been an absolute leader in aligning its secondary and postsecondary programs—and moving beyond the silos that separate the two.

Across Iowa, nearly 39,000 high school students are taking courses for credit at community colleges. In fact, 25 percent—one out of four community college students—are jointly enrolled in high school.

Statewide, more than half of all high school seniors are joint enrollment students. That is a remarkable record that I would like to see every other state duplicate.

The sad truth is that a strong alignment with business and high schools is more the exception than the norm for many CTE programs.

When I was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, it was frustrating and crazy to me that capital programs were not aligned with actual program needs.

We had culinary equipment sitting on the roofs of schools for years, useless, because the internal plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work hadn't been aligned with the use of Perkins Act dollars, the legislation that authorizes CTE programs.

Our blueprint for reforming the Perkins Act CTE programs is the result of extensive consultation. Brenda and her team have met with over 500 stakeholders to discuss CTE and to hear from the field about how we might improve the Perkins Act.

Brenda will talk more about this in a moment. But I want to say that a couple of overarching principles guide our blueprint for reforming and reauthorizing the Perkins Act, which provides more than $1 billion a year for CTE programs.

First, we think every CTE program must have high-quality standards and clearly articulate a pathway to a well-paying, in-demand occupation.

And second, we think employers and educators should have incentives to collaborate to the benefit of students.

Following these two, basic principles—which I believe everyone shares—means that we need to reform the Perkins Act.

Instead of states handing out funding for CTE programs on a formula basis, we want to see states set clearer program expectations—and hand out funding by competitive means.

To encourage more innovation and creativity, we want to set-aside a small portion of Perkins funds to provide states with more flexibility and incentives to innovate.

CTE programs should be deliberately designed with the jobs of today and tomorrow in mind—and that means they must be better-aligned with the needs of business and industry.

Instead of just hoping that business and industry will get involved in CTE programs, we want states to obtain a 25 percent match of Perkins funds from the private sector, either in cash or in-kind contributions, like equipment.

And instead of maintaining separate silos for secondary and postsecondary CTE educators, we want to break down those silos, by awarding funding competitively to consortia of secondary and postsecondary institutions.

Now, as Brenda will discuss, this transformation of CTE has to be accomplished while still protecting equity for minority students, students with disabilities, and English-language learners, as well as the needs of rural CTE programs.

Career and technical education doesn't usually grab the headlines in the debates over education. But our blueprint for reforming CTE is vitally important for maintaining economic prosperity and preparing a skilled workforce for the 21st century.

Millions of Americans and their families stand to benefit from the transformation and elevation of career and technical education. It is urgent that we embrace and accelerate CTE reform.

I'm going to now turn this over to Brenda to talk about the reforms we are proposing in our blueprint to reauthorize the Perkins Act CTE programs.