Giving Compass' Take:

• Ramin Taheri explains how a network of educators plans to innovate career and technical education programs in Nevada, Denver, and San Antonio. 

• How can the educator network strengthen partnerships with schools? How can donor involvement help CTE?

• Read about the strengths and weaknesses of career and technical education.

What does it mean for students to be “career ready”? It should mean they’re prepared to enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive, ideally in fields that pay enough to support a family. But too often career-preparation programs fail to live up to their name.

Many of today’s CTE students learn skills that are no longer relevant, or they obtain credentials that don’t matter to employers. The result for students can be dead-end jobs and unemployment. For employers, it can mean shortages of qualified workers, diminished productivity, and underperforming regional economies.

Partnerships between those providing education and those providing jobs are key to addressing the problem. If we want CTE programs to prepare future employees for success in the workplace, it’s critical that employers play a role in preparing these future employees.

Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, recently released a report, Let’s Get to Work: Learning From Success in Career and Technical Education, highlighting innovative efforts to modernize CTE programs in Nevada, Denver, and San Antonio, among other places.

A cornerstone of the effort is a plan to improve CTE, since many new jobs would require a credential, training, or certification, but only half would necessitate college degrees. The state began evaluating existing CTE programs, expanding work-based learning opportunities, and developing new pathways in consultation with business and industry. Today, students prepare to work in Nevada’s “new” economy through 79 programs in six career clusters, in fields ranging from computer science and cybersecurity to local trades like mining and tourism.

The recently reauthorized federal law known as Perkins V calls for an expansion of work-based learning and better alignment of CTE programs with employer needs.

Read the full article about career and technical education by Ramin Taheri at Education Next.