Florida: Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE)

Florida’s CAPE Act, initially passed in 2007, models how states can engage with industry and define quality industry certification standards for secondary and postsecondary students.


Florida: Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE)

In 2007 the Florida state legislature passed a significant overhaul of the state’s Career Technical Education (CTE) system. The resulting legislation, the Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE), sought to improve the quality and rigor of career programming; increase the number of students earning postsecondary credits or industry-recognized certification; encourage collaboration between K-12 education providers, workforce development boards, private industry and institutions of higher education; and provide students with access to high-wage, high-demand careers. Florida’s CAPE Act models how states can engage with industry and define quality industry certification standards for secondary and postsecondary students.

The key vehicles that CAPE uses to encourage quality and rigor in CTE programming are:

  • Statewide Planning Partnerships: District school boards are required to partner with local workforce development boards, economic development agencies and postsecondary institutions to develop a strategic plan for improving the quality and rigor of CTE. Strategic plans must be reviewed every three years and must describe how the district will review CTE courses, ensure that coursework leads to industry-recognized credentials and improve access to CTE programs.
  • Industry Certification: The original CAPE Act directed the Agency for Workforce Innovation to create a definition of “industry certification,” which was then codified into Florida state statute. To ensure the appropriate review and approval of industry-recognized credentials, the Department of Education directed CareerSource Florida, the state’s workforce investment board, to publish a comprehensive list of industry-recognized certifications annually. Certifications included on this list must be achievable to secondary students and require a minimum of 150 hours of instruction.
  • Financial Incentives to Improve Student Participation and Success: Florida incentivizes school districts to encourage participation in CTE courses that lead to industry-recognized credentials by adjusting the state’s weighted funding formula. More specifically, the state adjusts the district’s full-time equivalent (FTE) membership total, which is used to determine funding allocations, based on the number of students that receive industry-recognized credentials. Further, CTE teachers are eligible to receive bonuses up to $50 for each student that receives an industry-recognized credential. School districts and teachers are only eligible to receive incentives for students that attain credentials on the state’s annual Industry Certification Funding List
  • Career Academies: CAPE also required each school and school district in the state to offer integrated career and academic curriculum through career and professional academies. While these academies pre-date CAPE in existing Florida statute, CAPE required these programs to align to priority workforce needs and mandated that all public schools offer career academy opportunities.

The Florida legislature in 2013 passed SB 1076, which expanded CAPE to include an industry certification funding list for postsecondary students. In 2014, CAPE was further amended through SB 850 to require school districts to offer CAPE Digital Tool certificates for students in pre-K through middle school. SB 850 also required districts to notify parents about the return on investment for industry-recognized credentials and required all colleges in the Florida College System to offer a collegiate high school program, a program to enable high school students in grades 11 and 12 to earn CAPE industry certifications and earn credits toward a postsecondary degree.


Policy in Action
More than 297,000 CAPE industry certifications have been awarded since CAPE was enacted in the 2007-08 academic year. Further, the number of certifications awarded annually grew from 954 to 65,746 (more than a 6,000 percent increase) between the 2007-08 and 2014-15 school years, demonstrating growing support for and participation in CAPE-certified career courses.

However, to ensure the incentives are aligned with the most rigorous industry credentials, Florida has continued to adjust the weight for the schools’ funding formula. For example, for 2014-15, the CAPE Digital Tool certificate is only weighted at 0.025 FTE compared to a 0.2 FTE weight for a state-approved industry credential with a statewide articulation agreement of up to 14 college credits.

In the 2019-20 school year, the Florida Department of Education reported 74,295 CAPE participants earned 88,756 certifications. A 2020 evaluation found additional indicators of success for CAPE students, including higher GPAs, lower chronic absenteeism, lower high school dropout rates, higher enrollment in Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses, and higher student performance.

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Last Updated January 2021

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