- A new analysis of 24 states’ career and technical education (CTE) programs finds the industry credentials students can earn while in high school are not necessarily in high demand by employers nor would lead to a living wage.
- Conducted by ExcelinEd, a nonprofit founded by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Burning Glass Technologies, which conducts job market analytics, “Credentials Matter” also shows that of the top 15 credentials earned — such as a WISE Financial Literacy Certification, basic first aid and a National Center for Construction Education and Research carpentry credential — 10 are already oversupplied in the job market.
- The report recommends that states conduct an audit of CTE programs for quality and alignment with “high-skill, high wage, in-demand careers,” define and clarify the differences between a certification, a license, CTE assessments and other credentials, and that districts collaborate with state agencies to gain access to regional and local labor market data.
The report only focuses on 24 states because most don’t have the data to examine the credentials students are earning and whether they match up with the demands of employers. But with state lawmakers striving to close the "skills gap" and many states including these types of credentials as an indicator of career readiness under the Every Student Succeeds Act, having accurate data will become even more important, Quentin Suffren, the managing director of innovation policy for ExcelinEd, said during a press call on Tuesday. “This focus is only going to grow,” he said, adding that high school CTE programs and credentials available to students will also be a central element in states’ plans for Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education funding, due next April.
“To be clear: We are not suggesting that CTE programs are failing to teach the skills they promise,” the report says. “But it is clear from our analysis that the credentials these programs provide too often have little currency with today’s employers and are, therefore, of questionable career value to students.”
While an industry license carries the most weight, other credentials such as mastering a particular software program or passing a CTE assessment are either not recognized by employers or are not requested in job postings, Suffren said. While those accomplishments are important “building blocks” of a career path, they won’t lead to a well-paying job on their own, he said.
“It’s clear that this is not a one-system-at-fault issue,” he said, adding that schools, higher education, employers and state agencies “all have a part to play” in creating stronger connections between the credentials available to students and the demonstrated skills and knowledge that employers are expecting. Future work will explore in greater detail the outcomes for students that earn credentials.
ExcelinEd is also not the only organization focusing on alignment between CTE programs and the needs of the workforce. Last month, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a similar report, focusing on 10 metro areas, which shows that students taking CTE courses are finding jobs, but mostly low-paying ones.
"Because numerous studies suggest that Americans have become less mobile in recent decades, it’s more imperative than ever that the local business, postsecondary and K–12 education sectors join hands to strengthen the connection between high school CTE programs and the local job market," the authors write. "Only then will labor market 'alignment' become more than a buzzword."