OCTAE Connection - Issue 224 - February 12, 2015

OCTAE Newsletter

February 12, 2015


American Technical Training Fund for CTE Students Will Create a Strong Training Pipeline to Middle-Class Jobs

Co-Authored by OCTAE’s Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges Mark Mitsui

Effective CTE programs are aligned with community colleges, as well as the needs of employers, industry, and labor, in providing students with curricula that combines integrated academic and technical content, strong employability skills, and work-based learning opportunities. Together, these provide seamless transitions that connect learning to real-life careers.

President Obama recently proposed America’s College Promise, a bold plan to make two years of community college free for all Americans who are willing to work hard toward graduation. In addition, the president’s FY 2016 budget request includes a proposal to create a new $200 million American Technical Training Fund that would expand innovative, high-quality technical training programs that are aligned with the workforce needs of employers in high-demand industries.

This innovative fund would support the conception of 100 technical training centers throughout the country, as demonstrated by the 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT), which have achieved impressive program completion and job placement rates for many non-traditional postsecondary students. Last year, TCAT had an average completion rate for short-term job training programs of 81 percent, and an in-field job placement rate for graduates of 85 percent.  The TCAT system structures its training programs in a way that supports student success, and each college works closely with employers in their region to ensure that graduates of these short-term programs are prepared for skilled jobs in high-demand industries.

The American Technical Training Fund would build on the Obama administration’s historic $2 billion investment in career training programs at community colleges through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program. Over the past four years, federal TAACCCT funding has supported the creation and expansion of career pathways training programs at nearly 700 community colleges nationwide. This represents an unprecedented investment to strengthen career training programs at community colleges in partnership with employers in high-demand industries. However, the TAACCCT program expired last year, and Congress has not authorized its continuation.

The  American Technical Training Fund proposal comes at a time when earning a college certificate or degree has never been more important. Today, earning a certificate or degree in a high-demand field is a prerequisite for joining the middle class, and labor market projections show that this trend is only going to increase. By 2020, economists predict that nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require some level of education and training beyond high school. However, only about 58 percent of Americans 25 years and older have any postsecondary education or training. This means that the U.S. needs to dramatically improve the skill level of its adult population. According to the OECD’s most recent Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), about 36 million working-age adults in the U.S. scored at the lowest literacy and numeracy levels.  We are risking America’s ability to be economically competitive if we ignore the call to increase the education and skills of our adult workforce. We need to sustain the progress begun under TAACCCT and continue investing in high-quality technical training programs.

As we’ve traveled the country and visited countless high-quality CTE programs, we’ve seen, firsthand, how transformative these kinds of opportunities can be for individuals looking to access middle-class jobs. There are students like Juan Rodriguez, a 33-year-old son of migrant farm workers and the father of three school-aged children, who recently earned an associate degree in welding technology from Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT). Before enrolling in the training program, Rodriguez had been laid off from his job and was relying on unemployment benefits and federal food assistance (SNAP) to support his family. After graduating, he was hired as a quality manager at Skyline Steel’s manufacturing mill.  Rodriguez has since moved his family to Texas, where he works as a welding engineer for Kiewit Offshore Services and earns more than $100,000 a year. He credits the education and training he received at LWIT with helping him reach his dream of securing a good job that allows him to support his family without public assistance.  The American Technical Training Fund will help to ensure that more hard-working students like Rodriguez will have access to these kinds of life-changing opportunities.

America’s College Promise: A Ticket to the Middle Class

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, President Obama reiterated his commitment to make two years of community college free for all Americans who are willing to work hard toward graduation. Encouraged by similar programs in Tennessee and Chicago, the president’s proposal—America’s College Promise—would permit students to complete a certificate, associate degree, or the first two years of a bachelor’s degree at no cost.

This proposal is aimed at boosting access to high-quality postsecondary education and training, and comes at a time when it has never been more important to obtain some form of higher education. In past generations, a high school diploma was adequate to secure a middle-class job and support a family. Today, however, going to college and earning a credential has become a prerequisite for joining the middle class. Labor market projections show this trend is only going to increase. By 2020, economists predict that nearly two thirds of jobs will require some level of education and training beyond high school.

Concurrently, over the last three decades the cost of earning a college degree has risen sharply. During this period, the tuition for in-state students at public, four-year colleges increased by more than 200 percent, and the charges at community colleges increased by 150 percent, even after taking inflation into account. As a result, today’s college students have to take on much more debt than their parents’ generation in order to access middle-class jobs. All hard-working Americans should have the opportunity to attain the knowledge and skills they need for good, well-paying jobs without having to take on unmanageable debt.

Given the demands that individuals face in the job market today, as well as the need to have an educated and competitive workforce, we must make two years of college as free and universal as high school. America thrived in the 20th century, in large part because the movement to make high school widely available led to dramatic improvements in the education and skill levels of the population. But other countries have caught up with us, and some are passing us by. The time has come for America to once again “skill-up.”

Community colleges are the natural focus of this effort. They are the backbone of the U.S. higher-education system, enrolling about 40 percent of all college students each year. As low-cost, open-access institutions, community colleges also serve a high percentage of low-income, first-generation, and older college students. They provide affordable options for millions of Americans to start college and work toward bachelor’s degrees. In addition, they educate more African American and Hispanic undergraduate students than any other higher education segment. And community colleges have strong partnerships with local and regional businesses to develop critical training programs to meet the skilled workforce needs of high-demand industries like nursing, information technology, and advanced manufacturing.

As the president said, this proposal will require everyone to do his or her part. Community colleges will need to offer high-quality programs and implement evidence-based reforms to increase the number of students who persist, graduate, or transfer. Additionally, participating states must contribute matching funds, invest in higher education and training, and allocate a significant portion of funding based on performance, not enrollment alone. And students must enroll at least on a half-time basis and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA so they can stay on track to graduate.

America’s College Promise will yield tremendous benefits to an estimated 9 million hard-working people who dream of earning college degrees and joining the middle class, ensuring them access to life-changing opportunities.

In Case You Missed It: CTE and STEM Conference on Marginalized Girls

*Cross-posted from the White House Blog | The recorded webcast may be viewed here.

President Obama believes in the innate curiosity of every child, and our responsibility to ensure that every young woman and girl has the opportunity to achieve her dreams, regardless of what zip code she is born in.

This week, as part of the President’s commitment to equal opportunity for all students, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Education, and the Georgetown University Law Center on Poverty and Inequality highlighted programs that focus on developing the talent of girls of color and low-income girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and career technical education (CTE) careers. We heard from the educators, innovators, researchers, scientists, and marginalized girls themselves who are dedicated to increasing the participation of low-income girls and girls of color in post-secondary education and in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.  

According to a recent National Science Foundation study, today, more women graduate from college and participate in graduate programs than men. As the White House Council on Women and Girls noted in our November 2014 report, Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity, since 2009, both fourth- and eighth-grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the largest nationwide assessment, have improved for all girls of color, and since 2009 the high school dropout rate has fallen by 16 percent for black girls and 30 percent for Hispanic girls.

From 2009 to 2012, the graduation rate at four-year colleges and universities increased by 0.9 percentage points for black women, 3.1 percentage points for Hispanic women, 2.7 percentage points for American Indian/Alaska Native women, and 2.1 percentage points for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women. Despite this progress, barriers still exist for girls and women in STEM and CTE fields. In 2010, just 10.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 7.9 percent of master’s degrees, and 3.9 percent of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to women of color, and fewer than 1 in 10 employed engineers were women of color.

Many of these girls and young women continue to demonstrate an interest in STEM/CTE education, and we know that they bring new ideas, perspectives, and a passion for innovation and discovery. However, a dearth of resources effectively focused on marginalized girls, inaccurate stereotypes and implicit bias, and a lack of research informing evidence-based programs have combined to discourage many from pursuing and advancing in STEM and CTE careers. We simply cannot afford to allow these unfair and unnecessary barriers to prevent our nation from benefitting from the talents of the best and brightest Americans without regard to race, ethnicity, income, or gender.

We are proud to announce that the Administration is working with non-profit partners to expand access to STEM and CTE for marginalized girls, including low-income and girls of color:

  • Expanding Access to STEM and CTE Programs that Work: With funding support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Girls Collaborative Project, in coordination with non-profits like COMPUGIRLS and educators from around the country, will create a new STEM/CTE portal that will centralize resources on expanding marginalized girls’ access to STEM and CTE, including curriculum, research, and promising practices. The new project will also implement educator professional development at the local level.
  • Guidance to Ensure All Students Have Access to CTE and Non-Traditional Careers: The Department of Education is developing policy guidance designed to ensure that all students have equal access to CTE programs. The guidance to high schools, community colleges, and other CTE providers will underscore that gender bias has no place in American schools and that Title IX prohibits schools from relying on sex stereotypes in directing students towards certain fields. The guidance will also help state education agencies as they think about ways to improve women’s representation in non-traditional fields as part of their Perkins Act obligations.
  • Building Public-Private Partnerships and Strong Mentoring Programs: The Departments of Energy and Education will announce the expansion of a mentoring program that connects federal government employees who are STEM professionals with teachers and middle school students to share their passion, including some of the most marginalized students. This program will expand to additional cities around the country, with a focus on students living in public housing.

To learn more about what the Administration is doing now to expand opportunity for all with respect to STEM and CTE careers, please visit the Office of Science and Technology Policy and previous White House blogs on the topic.

Valerie Jarrett is senior advisor to the president and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. 

CTE Occupations: State Perspectives

In recognition of February as CTE month, this column builds on the Division of Academic and Technical Education’s review of the career and occupational situation in the United States by looking at the differing demands and wages across states for individuals with various levels of education. A recent study by Elka Torpey and Audrey Watson of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Education Level and Jobs: Opportunities by State (September 2014), assessed data from the most recent BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey from May 2013.

The study found that the types of jobs and the levels of education needed to fill them differ from state to state. It is a helpful tool for jobseekers who are considering geographic location as a factor in their career choices. 

Following are findings in three of the eight education designations that the BLS uses: 1) “some college, no degree”; 2) “postsecondary non-degree award”; and 3) “associate degree.”

(Note: The study reports the percentage of jobs, rather than the number, at every education level because heavily populated states offer more jobs than those less populated.)

Some College, No Degree

The median annual wage for jobs requiring some college but no degree was $29,100.  The 10 states with the highest levels of employment in these occupations were Vermont, New York, Kansas, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Washington, Maine, and Massachusetts. 

Postsecondary Non-Degree Award

For jobs in this category, the median annual wage was $35,120.  The 10 states with the largest shares of employment in occupations typically requiring a postsecondary non-degree award were  North Dakota, Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Mississippi, Alabama, Maine, Tennessee, Indiana, and Louisiana.  Heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver was the most common job in this group, of which all 10 states had higher-than-average concentrations.  The report notes that some healthcare occupations that typically require a postsecondary non-degree award were relatively prevalent in these states.  Other states on the list varied in the types of jobs that fell within this designation.

Associate Degree

The median annual wage was $58,240 for occupations that generally require an entry-level associate degree.  The 10 states with the largest shares of employment at this level were  Massachusetts, Vermont, South Dakota, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Delaware, Michigan, Ohio, Montana, and Maine.  Many of these states had residents with relatively high rates of employment in hospitals, which have a variety of occupations than typically require an associate degree.  For example, most of these states had higher concentrations of registered nurses than the nation as a whole.

Recognition of these occupational concentrations by education level is one important factor that students and their advisers should take into consideration when researching future career and technical education options.