Advance CTE continued its five-part summer lunch and learn series delving into each of the five principles of Without Limits: A Shared Vision for the Future of Career Technical Education (CTE Without Limits). Each session features a panel of leading voices from organizations across learning and work followed by interactive group discussions on the information shared and next steps.
The fourth principle of CTE Without Limits aims to fully count, value and transport each learner’s skills through systematic transformations that capture learning at stages and settings, build systems that translate competencies into portable credit, and advance a culture of hiring that values skills over degrees. The August 17 panel featured Jonathan Alfuth, State Policy Director, KnowledgeWorks; Molly Bashay, Senior Policy Analyst for Education, Labor & Worker Justice, The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); and Niki DaSilva, Manager of Programs and Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce.
Throughout the session, it was clear that equity must be a key driver for this principle to be fully realized. When each learner’s skills are fully counted, valued and portable, systems will be able to respect and validate all skillbuilding experiences and remove historic barriers to paths to career success with family-sustaining wages.
- Transparency and flexibility are key to learner-centered systems: Creating systems that make it easy for both employers and learners to value all prior learning requires flexibility both in remaining responsive to evolving workforce needs and in piloting intentional strategies to engage learners historically marginalized from opportunities to fully count skills and experiences. Alfuth elevated the importance of easily accessible and transparent policies on how prior learning is counted, valued and transferred to aid learners as they navigate their path to career and college success and offered work in California as a promising example.
- The need to overcome information and administrative barriers: Bashay identified one the greatest challenges to fully leveraging credit for prior learning is lack of learner knowledge about these opportunities. In many cases, system are too complex and create significant barriers for learners, particularly those from historically underserved populations, from taking the extra steps to have experiences fully counted. Similarly, DaSilva pointed out that many employers often narrow their talent pipeline due to lack of knowledge about changing opportunities for learning and how to leverage data to identify skill needs and incorporate them into the hiring process. CTE partnerships with employers are a valuable avenue for states to streamline systems and close these knowledge gaps.
- Quality standards are critical to fully counting learning: Alfuth elevated the importance of establishing clear quality standards both in state policy and in memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between secondary and postsecondary institutions to ensure credit for prior learning and particularly early postsecondary opportunities are fully valued. These standards can also help employers make better connections between credit and the skills they are seeking in new hires.
Recommendations for Implementation
- Start by redefining academic success as a first step: Bashay emphasized that a key first step to expanding access to credit for prior learning and early postsecondary opportunities is changing mindsets so that all, not just ‘some’ or ‘advanced’ students, can access these opportunities. This includes state CTE leaders taking steps for CTE coursework and experiences to be valued at the same level as core academic coursework.
- Utilize existing resources and best practices: Alfuth and DaSilva both lifted up state policy frameworks created by their respective organizations as valuable starting points as states consider how to include credit for prior learning as part of systems transformation for personalized learning and competency-based hiring.
- Interstate transfer key area for growth: While the session reinforced the robust work that is being done to study and advance credit for prior learning, panelists and participants pointed out several areas to take current progress to the next level, including moving beyond intrastate connectivity to include out-of-state institutions.
The fifth and final lunch and learn held August 31 featured Stephen Pruitt, President of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB); Dale Winkler, Vice President of School Improvement for SREB; and Christina Sedney, Director of Policy Initiatives and State Authorization, Policy Analysis and Research for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).
Recordings of previous Lunch and Learn sessions and additional vision implementation resources can be found on Advance CTE’s vision page.
Stacy Whitehouse, Senior Associate Communications and State Engagement