OCTAE Connection - Issue 240 - October 23, 2015

OCTAE Newsletter

October 23, 2015

Webinar and Call for Questions on Ability to Benefit

Date and Time: Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EST

Access to financial aid plays a huge role in the ability of students to access, persist in, and complete postsecondary education, especially for those without a high school diploma or its equivalent. In December 2014, Congress partially restored the Ability to Benefit (ATB) provision of the Higher Education Act. Under this provision, students who do not have a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent, but who are enrolled in eligible career pathways programs, may qualify for federal financial aid. In addition to participating in an eligible career pathways program, students wanting to qualify for aid need to pass an approved test or successfully complete six hours of college credit. The partial ATB restoration provides a great opportunity for thousands of students who will now be able to pursue postsecondary education and training in community and technical colleges, or four-year colleges, and attain the credentials needed for careers in high-demand occupations. To benefit from the restoration, however, students in eligible career pathways programs need help to gain access to resources and information.

The webinar will address the following questions:

  • What is Ability to Benefit?
  • Who is eligible for Ability to Benefit?
  • What are the two primary ways to help students qualify for ATB and access financial aid for college pathways programs?
  • What constitutes an “eligible” career pathways program?
  • Where can one find the list of ABT tests that qualify students for ATB?

During the Nov. 9 webinar, staff from the U.S. Department of Education will provide guidance on how students can qualify. In addition, state and community college officials will share examples of how Ability to Benefit is being utilized to support low-income, underprepared students.

ED is asking webinar participants to submit by Nov. 1 any inquiries on which they would like ED’s guidance. To submit a question(s) please fill out this short survey. ED will review the inquiries in advance and respond to as many of them as possible during the webinar.

For more resources from Jobs for the Future about how to help underprepared students access and succeed in college, please visit http://www.jff.org/publications/earning-postsecondary-credentials.

For more background on Ability to Benefit, visit http://www.jff.org/initiatives/accelerating-opportunity/policy-update.


  • Mark Mitsui, deputy assistant secretary for Community Colleges, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education;
  • Carney McCullough, director, Policy Development Group, Office of Postsecondary Education;
  • David Musser, policy liaison, Federal Student Aid;
  • Maria Flynn, senior vice president, Jobs for the Future;
  • Jon Kerr, director of Adult Basic Education, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges; and
  • Derek Ball, financial aid officer at the Kentucky Community & Technical College System.


  • Mary Clagett, program director, Jobs for the Future
  • Lauren E. Walizer, senior policy analyst, Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, CLASP

Please be sure to register for the webinar by clicking here. Login information for the event will be sent out to registered attendees prior to the event.

If you have any questions, contact Lexie Waugh at awaugh@jff.org.. 

Happy One-Year Anniversary, Career Pathways Exchange!

Last fall, OCTAE’s Moving Pathways Forward initiative launched the Career Pathways Exchange (the Exchange), and in just one year, this free, e-mail-based career pathways information service has grown to about 1,500 subscribers and 23 partner organizations. The Exchange offers subscribers the opportunity to receive high-quality information and resources, and events on career pathways from a single source. Additionally, it boasts a growing partner list that includes the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Center for Law and Social Policy, Jobs for the Future, the National Skills Coalition, New America, and the Association for Career and Technical Education.

In honor of its anniversary, the Exchange released a new podcast series aimed at advancing systems thinking about career pathways. The first episode examines developments in career pathways that have roots in secondary career and technical education.  Tune in to the LINCS YouTube channel for thought-provoking ideas and conversations.

The Moving Pathways Forward initiative and the Career Pathways Exchange have been mentioned in the vice president’s Ready to Work initiative and OCTAE’s Making Skills Everyone’s Business reports as federal efforts to help states and interested stakeholders develop, expand, and strengthen their career pathways systems.

OCTAE encourages you to subscribe to the Career Pathways Exchange to remain informed and receive helpful resources in your work to advance career pathways systems. Additionally, receive updates through Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, where resources are archived.

Career Pathways System Development

Career Pathways Toolkit: A Guide for System Development, a recent publication of the U.S. Department of Labor, is designed to supplement the original Career Pathways Toolkit: Six Key Elements for Success.  The new publication provides a framework, resources, and tools for states and local partners to use in developing, implementing, and sustaining a comprehensive career pathways systems and programs. The new toolkit is instructive for all concerned with strong career pathways systems. 

The term “career pathways” has been defined differently by various authors and used in studies in different ways.  Therefore, emphasizing the elements of the definition of career pathways in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is essential to clarifying the concept.  “The term “career pathways” means a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training, and other services that

a)      aligns with the skill needs of industries in the economy of the state or regional economy involved;

b)      prepares an individual to be successful in any of the full range of secondary or postsecondary education options, including apprenticeships registered under the Act of August 16, 1937;

c)      includes counseling to support an individual in achieving education and career goals;

d)     includes, as appropriate, education offered concurrently with and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster;

e)      organizes education, training, and other services to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates the educational and career advancement of the individual to the extent practicable;

f)       enables an individual to attain a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent, and at least one recognized postsecondary credential; and

g)      helps an individual enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster.”

Career pathways operate at two levels: a systems level and an individual program level. From the systems perspective, career pathways development is a broad approach for assisting populations that may encounter major barriers to finding employment. This new design offers a clear sequence, or pathway, of education coursework and/or training that is aligned to employer-validated work readiness standards and competencies. 

From the perspective of the individual job aspirant, career pathways programs facilitate the earning of an industry-recognized credential through approaches that are more relevant, emphasize flexibility into education and training, and facilitate the attainment of skills that lead to employment. Designed to meet the needs of both employed workers seeking to enhance their opportunities and non-traditional students, career pathways programs will serve a diverse population of leaners including adults, youth dislocated workers, veterans, individual with a disability, public assistance recipients, new immigrants, English language learners, and justice-involved individuals.

The revised Career Pathways Toolkit comprises three sections.  The first section discusses the six key elements of career pathways.  The second section discusses team tools and provides a “how to” guide for facilitators.  Section three provides resources to    assist a team developing a career pathways system.   Especially valuable is the discussion under Element Six: Measure System Change and Performance.  The publication concludes with a glossary and a bibliography.

Presidential Proclamation Names October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month

By order of a proclamation, President Barack Obama recently announced that October 2015 is National Youth Justice Awareness Month. “All too often, our juvenile and criminal justice systems weigh our young people down so heavily that they cannot reach their piece of the American dream,” the president said. Toward that end, Obama called on all Americans to assure that the nation’s youths have the opportunity to reach their full potential and to “recommit to building a country where all our daughters and sons can grow, flourish  ...”

The proclamation is a call to action, as well as a reminder of the facts and realities of youth involvement in the criminal justice system. Even when not resulting in a finding of guilt, delinquency, or conviction, involvement often affects a youth’s ability “to pursue a higher education, obtain a loan, find employment, or secure quality housing,” the proclamation states. Research has found that many court-involved and detained youths have been in the foster care system, and/or lived in homes and communities “where violence and drugs were pervasive and opportunities were absent.” Many young people detained in juvenile justice facilities also have had a mental or substance use disorder.

Current data provides guidance for the proclamation’s call to action.  Each year, more than 1 million youths under the age of 18 are arrested, with the majority of the arrests for non-violent crimes, the announcement states. The percentage of youths arrested before the age of 23 is staggering — 50 percent of black males, 44 percent of Hispanic males, and almost 40 percent of white males. Approximately 55,000 individuals under age 21 are being held in juvenile justice facilities in the U.S., and youths of color, including tribal youths, are disproportionately represented. The rise in the number of detained and incarcerated youths is not solely an issue for males. The number of girls and young women in the system has likewise increased.

The concerns goes beyond the number of youths in juvenile facilities, as data reveals that “on any given day, more than 5,000 youth under age 18 are serving time in adult prisons or local jails.” In fact, nine states prosecute all 17-year-olds as adults and two states prosecute all 16-year-olds as adults — regardless of the crime committed. Moreover, all states have transfer laws that allow or require certain youth.” These justice system practices continue notwithstanding compelling data finding “that that youth prosecuted in adult courts are more likely to commit future crimes than similarly situated youth who are prosecuted for the same offenses in the juvenile system.”

The long-term consequences on the lives of these youths, including their future opportunities, welfare, and solvency are only a part of the effect of detaining and incarcerating so many of them.  The economic reality is no less daunting: of Detaining one youth in a state-operated facility can exceed $100,000 per year, per inmate. The amount spent nationally to detain and incarcerate youths “could be better spent — with improved youth and public safety outcomes — by investing in our children in ways that help keep them out of the juvenile and criminal justice systems in the first place, or that prevent them from penetrating deeper into the system.”

In this context, the administration is committed to and has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce recidivism and improve youth outcomes. For example, the Department of Justice launched the Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative; the departments of Education and Justice have a joint effort to revamp school discipline policies and support underfunded schools; and the departments of Health and Human Services and Justice are working to improve diversion policies by screening and treating youth for substance abuse, trauma, and unmet mental, emotional, and behavioral needs. In addition to these federal agency efforts, President Obama has launched two initiatives: My Brother's Keeper to address the particular needs of boys and young men of color, and Generation Indigenous to improve the lives of Native youths.

National Youth Justice Awareness Month reaffirms that our country is “a nation of second chances, and justice means giving every young person a fair shot.” The proclamation calls for a recommitment to ensure that “our justice system acts not as a means for perpetuating a cycle of hopelessness, but as a framework for uplifting our young people with a sense of purpose so they can contribute to America's success.” October is an opportunity for all citizens to find ways to get involved in efforts, ceremonies, programs, and activities that focus on supporting these youth.

Undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Youth Guidance Package

In an effort to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers, the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, has released a resource guide to help educators, school leaders, and community organizations better support undocumented youths in secondary and postsecondary schools. Those for whom the guide is intended also include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

The guide includes resources aimed at high school and college students and includes

  • an overview of the rights of undocumented students;
  • tips for educators on how to support undocumented youths in high school and college;
  • key information on non-citizen access to federal financial aid;
  • a list of private scholarships for which undocumented youths might be eligible ;
  • information on federally funded adult education programs at the local level; and
  • guidance for migrant students in accessing their education records for DACA.

The aim of the guide is to help educators and school staff to support the academic success of undocumented youths and debunk misconceptions by clarifying the legal rights of undocumented students. The guide also shares information about financial aid options open to undocumented students, and supports youths applying for DACA consideration or renewal. 

More information about resources for immigrants, refugees, asylees, and other new Americans can be found here. .

National Apprenticeship Week — Week of November 2, 2015

During the week of November 2, the U.S. Department of Labor and apprenticeship leaders nationwide will celebrate the first annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW).  NAW is an opportunity for the national apprenticeship community to share its pride in using the registered apprenticeship model to train U.S. workers.

National Apprenticeship Week is your chance to raise awareness, promote the value of apprenticeship, and celebrate the innovative and effective strategies being used around the country to train workers in all industries. The week also serves as an opportunity for those in business, industry, and education, as well as career seekers, community-based organizations, students, and workers to learn about the advantages of apprenticeship, as evidenced by activities like those taking place at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. 

Harper is an active ApprenticeshipUSA LEADER. Through a $2.5 million grant awarded as part of the American Apprenticeship Grants initiative, Harper College, in partnership with Zurich North America, a global insurance company, is developing the Apprenticeships on Demand program. This program integrates technical instruction and on-the-job training for   workers in high-growth and in-demand occupations in manufacturing, insurance, and information technology occupations. Individuals completing the program may earn an associate and a bachelor’s degree paid for by their employers.

To learn more and find out how you can get involved and plan events in recognition of the important role of apprenticeship in building the nation’s workforce industries, please visit http://doleta.gov/oa/naw/..