USED & White House
It's Time to Rethink Career and Technical Education

A recent state reported data set on CTE participation shows only 8 million of America’s 15 million high school students participate in a CTE course in a given year. Additionally, only 1 in 5 high school students chose to concentrate in a CTE program of study. At the same time, the numbers of transfer students at community colleges are outpacing those enrolled in CTE certificate or associates degree pathways. This results in an America where employers face a profound skills gap and students carry $1.5 trillion in financial aid debt. Too few students are taking advantage of CTE educational opportunities that lead to great jobs and careers. It is time for Career and Technical Education in the U.S. to be the nimble, demand-driven talent development system that it is meant to be.


To address these issues, in July, President Trump signed Perkins V into law. The law requires robust stakeholder engagement to encourage local and state-driven innovation and advancement. Due to its engaged nature, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) has released the draft State Plan Guide for public comment and will be issuing the final guide in early 2019. Additionally, OCTAE has gathered teams from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Somoa – each eager to launch their state plan development process and excited about the opportunities the act provides to establish a new vision for CTE.


To continue stakeholder involvement, on Friday, December 14, OCTAE hosted the Rethink CTE Summit. The summit brought together 150 business and industry representatives, associations and educators that demonstrated commitment to preparing America’s future workforce. Five intentionally crafted sessions equipped participants to mobilize their networks to engage with states and local education agencies on the development of their state plans.

Additionally, participants left prepared to ask the tough questions:

  • Why aren’t work-based learning and “earn and learn” programs (like apprenticeships) the rule and not the exception?
  • Why can’t employers play a larger role in preparing students for their futures?
  • Why is CTE for some and not all students?
  • Why do barriers exist between the levels and types of education?

Success for the summit did not rest in answering each of these questions or simply talking about the new law. Rather the summit sought to assist participants in identifying questions that need to be asked at their state and local levels. If the right questions are asked in states across the country, stakeholders will be empowered to find bold solutions in providing students with multiple pathways and better preparation for what comes next!

For more information about how you can get involved in the state planning process, please visit the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, navigate the resources on the Summit website, or reach out to Richard Pettey at


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