Aligning systems is one of five key principles of the shared vision, Putting Learner Success First. System alignment can ensure a shared vision and commitment to seamless college and career pathways for every learner; by maximizing resources, reducing inefficiencies and holding systems accountable, every learner can have the supports they need to find success.
The recent enactment of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins IV), presents new opportunities to align Career Technical Education (CTE) and state workforce systems to strengthen and expand opportunities for learners. States have taken different approaches to align CTE and the workforce systems, from submitting Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) combined state plans with Perkins IV as a partner program to establishing strong connections between CTE and the workforce systems via strategic partnerships and plans. As states think about improving the effectiveness of this connection, it’s critical to reflect on and learn from states’ efforts to enhance CTE and workforce system alignment.
To inform this post, Advance CTE interviewed several State CTE Directors to learn about how they align CTE and workforce systems in their respective states. Below are key takeaways from those conversations and highlights of a few state examples.
Approaches to Promoting CTE and Workforce Systems Alignment
While states take different approaches to aligning CTE and workforce systems depending on their needs, some common approaches to aligning CTE and workforce systems emerged.
- Local advisory boards: Many states leverage local employer advisory boards to inform CTE programs. For instance, Pennsylvania has a state mandate that requires all secondary schools and Perkins recipients to engage local workforce development boards to inform their programming.
- Shared goals: Other states establish shared strategic targets and goals across the education and workforce systems. In Washington, the Workforce Training and Education Board is responsible for the administration of Perkins and WIOA, which allows the state to easily set goals for Perkins and WIOA that align. Even though Washington does not have a WIOA combined state plan with Perkins IV as a partner program, its state workforce plan has included CTE in its strategy for more than thirty years and state law requires WIOA and Perkins plans to align. As a result, Washington makes it a point to establish Perkins performance goals that align with WIOA goals.
- Strategic Initiatives: States also align CTE and workforce systems through strategic initiatives. In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Works initiative aligns resources, education, training and job opportunities to promote workforce development in the state. Through this initiative, Oklahoma examines education, workforce and economic data to ensure that programs of study align with labor market data. Ensuring that CTE programs of study have labor market relevance is a key strategy for aligning CTE and workforce systems.
Systems Alignment Sustainability
Trend data from Advance CTE surveys since 2005 suggests that coordination between CTE and other state initiatives is more common when there is an external forcing event, such as state or federal legislation that triggers a statewide planning process. As states expand upon or strengthen their work to align CTE and workforce systems, they must consider how they will sustain systems alignment even when these statewide planning processes conclude.
Some states, such as West Virginia, established CTE and workforce systems alignment sustainability through building partnership infrastructure. West Virginia has a WIOA combined state plan with Perkins IV as a partner program, which helps to promote collaboration between the CTE and workforce systems. Representatives from the West Virginia Division of Technical, Adult and Institutional Education (WV-CTE) serve on the WIOA State Board and helped to develop the state goals articulated in the WIOA combined state plan. Representatives attend a quarterly WIOA group that meets to ensure that the state is making progress on the goals articulated in its WIOA plan.
Additionally, WV-CTE has a Governor’s Economic Initiative office within it that ensures CTE programs of study are aligned to industry needs and developed collaboratively between business, industry and education. West Virginia is able to sustain its CTE and workforce systems alignment through establishing statewide goals via the WIOA combined state plan, clearly defining roles through committees and establishing routine accountability checks.
CTE and workforce systems alignment is necessary to ensure that learners are on a path to securing in-demand, high-wage careers. While the state examples in this resource showcase the importance of elevating partnerships and collaboration to achieve alignment, CTE and workforce systems alignment can take many different forms. A state’s approach to CTE and workforce systems alignment should be guided by its state vision, goals and infrastructure.
Brianna McCain, Policy Associate