OVAE Connection - Issue 158 - July 11, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                              July 11, 2013 - Issue 158

Nearly Half a Billion Dollars to Attract TAACCCT Applicants

On April 19, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) launched the third round of funding for the Trade Act Assistance Community College Career and Technical Training (TAACCCT) Grant Program. Through this grants competition, DOL will award $474.5 million to “institutions of higher education that offer programs that can be completed in not more than two years and are accredited by an agency or association recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.” Awardees will include both individual institutions and consortia that will be funded to develop programs that, through partnerships with employers, enable trade-affected workers who have lost or are in danger of losing their jobs and other adult learners to develop skills and earn industry-recognized credentials and advance along career pathways.

The solicitation and additional information may be found here. On June 20, DOL posted additional information on some of the new features of the FY 2013 competition. These included an additional “core element” that requires applicants to align their proposed projects with previously funded TAACCCT projects as well as a new set of preconditions that must be demonstrated through the application. The preconditions include evidence of significant employer engagement, use of labor market information in the design and management of the project, and a detailed third-party evaluation plan. Related FAQs may be found here.

The third round of TAACCCT also places greater emphasis on the collection and use of outcomes data that links program completion with employment and earnings. State-wide consortia, for example, will be required to present plans for developing an “Employment Results Scorecard” that tracks program completers into the workforce. In the recent FAQ document, DOL provides detailed information on how consortia can meet this requirement as well as links to a host of technical assistance resources.

The focus on labor market outcomes reflects the administration’s commitment to helping students better understand the value of specific training programs and builds on efforts like the College Scorecard to help students make better decisions about which programs would best serve their interests.


OECD Report on Postsecondary CTE in the U.S. Released

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released an OVAE- and National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)-funded report, A Skills beyond School: Review of the United States, on the state of postsecondary CTE in the United States on July 10 at a special event hosted by the New America Foundation. The report is part of the OECD’s Skills beyond School project, which reviews postsecondary education and training in more than 20 countries in the context of their preparation of younger people and adults for technical and professional jobs. Research for the U.S. country report was conducted from May 2012 through March 2013, and included two visits to the United States as well as case studies of Florida, Washington, and Maryland.

The report begins by noting the growing skills challenge facing many OECD countries, one that could become increasingly acute in the U.S. given the relatively flat levels of postsecondary attainment in recent decades. While the U.S. led the world a generation ago in the proportion of its workforce with a postsecondary credential, attainment has stalled, and 12 other OECD countries now have higher percentages of 25–34-year-olds with a postsecondary certificate or degree. The U.S. still has many of the world’s elite institutions of higher education, but OECD calls into question “the capacity of the broader postsecondary system to provide the wide range of postsecondary skills which will be needed by the workforce.”

OECD notes that decentralization is responsible for many of the strengths of the U.S. postsecondary CTE system, as well as many of the challenges it faces. Among the strengths, OECD notes that it allows postsecondary CTE providers to respond flexibly to the needs of a variety of students, employers, and other stakeholders. The system is also inclusive, with open-access policies and ample opportunities for adults to enter or reenter postsecondary education and training programs to upgrade their skills. The labor market returns to associate degrees and certificates are generally good, and the system allows for a great deal of policy development and innovation.

However, OECD warns that the U.S. system has weak quality-assurance mechanisms that rely too heavily on institutional accreditation and that are not equipped to provide clear quality standards for CTE programs. Postsecondary occupational credentials are also less organized than in other countries, which often results in a lack of clarity for students and employers about the skills and credentials needed for many jobs. Lastly, the complicated postsecondary environment in the U.S. offers a variety of choices for students but does not always support smooth transitions into postsecondary education and training, between institutions, and out of postsecondary programs into the labor market.

OECD’s overarching recommendation for the U.S. postsecondary CTE system is to balance the impressive diversity of this decentralized system with “a strategic pursuit of more quality, coherence and transparency.” The report includes specific recommendations grouped into three categories: tying federal Title IV funding to stronger quality standards; anchoring postsecondary credentials in the needs of industry; and building effective transitions for students into, within, and out of postsecondary education and training.