How Can Business and Industry Work with Educators to Improve Workforce Development?

Workforce Development
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If you are like many business and industry leaders, you are struggling to secure the talent required to move your company forward. Not enough students are proactively considering the breadth of available career options and the commensurate education and credentials that are needed to reach their goals. More education alignment with local economic needs, transparency in information about careers in all sectors, and a deliberate focus on helping students prepare for these opportunities would improve the situation.

Career and Technical Education Is Key

Quality career and technical education (CTE) programs are in a position to address the issue but need your partnership. There are some great opportunities on the horizon to consider. The recent passage of the federal "Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act" provides one opportunity to bring business leaders to the table with educators. The law, known to educators as "Perkins V (read '5')," was reauthorized by Congress and signed into law by President Trump nearly a year ago. State CTE leaders are currently working on their plans required by the government to guide how the law will be implemented at the state and local level. Local recipients of Perkins V funds are required to consult with stakeholder groups as they develop their own implementation plans and states are developing guidelines and supports to help them meet this objective. If you are in an industry with locations and employees throughout the state, make sure that you have reached out to CTE leaders within the state agency responsible for oversight. You can find that information on this website managed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Start with Community Outreach

Perhaps more important related to your company’s hiring needs, reach out to the local CTE programs in your community if you have not already. The new Perkins law includes a needs-assessment process that will drive development of the local Perkins application that local CTE leaders will be submitting to states for approval. Business and industry representatives are specifically named as an important stakeholder and local CTE programs will be required to reach out to industry leaders to participate in this process. If your industry has never been contacted by a CTE program, make sure they know you exist. Introduce yourself and determine if there are ways to work collaboratively to address the workforce development issues you are facing. The new focus of the Perkins V law includes strengthening consideration of the economic drivers in communities and regions where CTE programs reside, and designing programs that help educate and prepare students for those opportunities. Collaboration must be meaningful in order to be successful. This means more than an hour-long meeting once per quarter. It might mean providing work-based learning opportunities to students so they can experience the "real world" environment of your business or providing mentors from your company to help guide these students on what it means to be part of your productive workforce. This is not usually "easy" work, but strong educator-employer connections can be powerful and there are many leaders who have found local CTE programs to be an outstanding feeder of their workforce pipeline. One example is the International Sign Association (ISA), a national trade organization representing many different manufacturing companies and other leaders who are working in sectors supporting signage and display information. ISA has developed a national campaign that connects their members with educational organizations in their local area, and produced resources to assist them in their conversations to build partnerships. The Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) has created a primer document, a Guide to Understanding CTE, which helps explain some of the basics, such as the Career Clusters framework that organizes workforce sectors into 16 groups. It also explains the terminology used by the educators that teach the programs. A good place to begin a conversation with a local education program is learning to speak each other's language and the Guide may help with that conversation. Learn more about the Workforce Development Through CTE Initiative. ACTE will be hosting the second Summit Dec. 3-4 in Anaheim, Calif., and we would love to have you join us to continue the pursuit of solutions. This guest post is from Stephen DeWitt,  Deputy Executive Director of the Association for Career & Technical Education, which is dedicated to providing educational leadership in developing a competitive workforce. 

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