October 27, 2021
Reports Outline Recommendations for Creating High-Quality Career and Technical Education

Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, today released two reports outlining how systems can create rigorous career and technical education (CTE) programming to give students the knowledge and skills they need for high-wage, in-demand jobs, along with strong pathways to obtain those positions. The first report explains how state and local governments can implement a well-coordinated approach to CTE governance, one that involves all relevant entities and is aligned to educational attainment and economic development goals. The second report describes the specific role that intermediary organizations can play in supporting and sustaining effective CTE partnerships. Together, the reports provide guidance to help leaders establish two foundational aspects of high-quality CTE programming and pathways from K-12 to college and careers. Recommendations are aligned to a Chiefs for Change memo detailing how systems should allocate their federal Covid relief aid.

“The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on individual students and families, local and regional economies, and our nation overall,” said Chiefs for Change Board Chair and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez. “It has forced large numbers of students to rethink their plans for life after school. Many are now working to help support their families, and, in these uncertain times, some young people cannot or are reluctant to take out college loans, not knowing if they will be able to complete their studies or whether a degree will lead to financial security. In addition, Covid-19 has spurred major changes in the labor market. It is all the more important to give students flexible pathways to good jobs in today’s world.”

In the first report, The Role of State Governance in Supporting Learner Pathways, Chiefs for Change outlines five recommendations. These include:

  • Establishing a north star or shared state goal for pathway outcomes. The north star should be inclusive and should connect learners of all ages, education, and workforce experience with in-demand occupations that offer family sustaining wages.
  • Establishing and codifying a governance structure—such as a cabinet, subcabinet, board, or commission—whose sole task is to convene cross-sector, cross-system partners to develop a strategic plan, determine success metrics, and integrate funding in support of the state’s goal for pathways.
  • Engaging all stakeholders—including representatives of relevant government agencies, intermediary organizations, and employers—in the work to meet the state’s shared pathways goal.
  • Conducting a comprehensive and transparent communications campaign so learners, families, employers, community based organizations, and others understand the available opportunities and how they can benefit from them.
  • Tracking and regularly reporting progress and results toward the shared pathways goal and underlying success metrics.

The brief spotlights the work that education departments led by Chiefs for Change members in three states—Indiana, Rhode Island, and Tennessee—have done to create governance structures that provide rich opportunities and experiences for students.

Tennessee’s governance model, for example, relies on its years-long tradition of collaboration across agencies and administrations. The Tennessee Workforce Development System, led by the State Workforce Development Board, serves as a consortium of state agencies focused on building and sustaining a strong workforce.

“Tennessee has aligned our education and workforce priorities—not just in the last couple of years, but over the last decade—because we know how critical it is for our students and business community,” Chiefs for Change member and Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn explained in the report. “It has brought all stakeholders to the table and has allowed us to be very targeted in identifying the jobs and industries that need skilled workers, what student academic and advising supports need to be in place, and which work-based learning skills and opportunities need to be developed to best support our students.”

In the second report, Education-to-Workforce Learner Pathways: How Intermediary Organizations Can Support and Help Sustain Effective Partnerships, Chiefs for Change outlines the important role that local and regional intermediary organizations play in connecting K–12 schools; colleges and universities; employers; workforce development agencies; and other partners to drive long-term student success. In this report, the six recommended actions for state and local leaders are:

  • Championing policies that promote intermediary organizations. Leaders should conduct a scan of relevant policies to determine whether they drive state and local education priorities and initiatives.
  • Collaborating with agency and community partners to develop protocols for engaging intermediary organizations. This involves transparently defining roles and responsibilities, as well as desired outcomes of the partnerships.
  • Identifying federal and state funding opportunities across partner agencies that can be braided to incentivize the participation of intermediary organizations. Leaders should take into account not only recent federal aid for pandemic recovery, but federal acts that support education-to-workforce pathways and experiences.
  • Working with agency and community partners—and intermediary organizations—to identify implementation challenges at the state and local levels and remove barriers.
  • Developing program-quality indicators and establishing data collection and reporting methods for intermediary organizations that are tied to state metrics.
  • Regularly engaging with intermediary organizations by facilitating check-ins and information gathering sessions to determine intermediaries’ impact and identify any policy or program adjustments that are needed to better support intermediaries in achieving the agreed-upon goals.

The report also describes how education systems in the state of Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; and San Antonio, Texas, are working with intermediaries in their jurisdictions. In New Orleans, for example,YouthForce NOLA facilitates experiences for NOLA Public Schools students that reflect the district’s priorities for college and career readiness. YouthForce NOLA routinely convenes various education, workforce, and community stakeholders to build needed professional relationships that support the district’s work-based learning initiatives, education-to-workforce learner pathways, and early postsecondary credit opportunities.

“YouthForce NOLA is an integral partner in our efforts to have our young people gain real-world professional experiences,” Chiefs for Change member and NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr., said in the report. “They work with students in nearly every school, making the connections between what’s happening in their classrooms with what is needed in the workforce.”

The briefs released today are tied to the goals outlined in the Chiefs for Change Blueprint for Postsecondary Success and follow the publication of the network’s 2019 report, Let’s Get to Work: Learning from Success in Career and Technical Education.

“With unprecedented amounts of federal Covid aid for K-12 education, leaders have an historic opportunity to establish new and better CTE models and significantly improve their existing programs,” said Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee. “Members of Chiefs for Change are doing leading work in this area so their students graduate ready to meet the challenges of our time and build the futures they want for themselves and their communities.”

About Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.