CTE credentials not matching employer requirements

CTE credentials not matching employer requirements

(Fla.) A mismatch between the goals of career technical education as established by the states and the needs of the labor market is at least partially the result of employers nationwide not signaling their needs and requirements to schools, according to a new study.

Part of the problem can also be attributed to the fact that about half of states don’t collect the data needed to tell whether their CTE credentials are aligned with what employers are seeking.

And in the 24 states that do collect the necessary data to measure if credentials earned in high schools meet local industry needs, researchers found that 10 of the top 15 credentials earned by students are already oversupplied in the job market.

The report was released Wednesday by Burning Glass Technologies–which specializes in job market analytics–and the Foundation for Excellence in Education–founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2008 to advocate for innovation in education.

Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, said CTE programs are not failing to teach students the skills as intended. Rather, he said the study shows that the credentials provided through such programs often don’t support with what employers are actually looking for.

“The ultimate goal of any career credential, whether a certification, certificate, or license, is to give students an edge in the job market by demonstrating the skills they’ve acquired,” Sigelman said in a statement. “Every day employers signal what they’re looking for in their job postings. Ensuring that the supply of credentials is aligned with the demand by employers is fundamental to giving graduates a real chance in their careers.”

There is evidence at the local level that policymakers are tailoring CTE course offerings to meet the needs of specific employment needs. In Maine, for instance, high school-level firefighting programs have been developed to help train and recruit young people for short staffed stations. Meanwhile, a Texas district is working on a pathway to put students further ahead on the path toward earning a medical license as a need for more physicians has emerged.

And in states with large numbers of rural schools, including Nebraska, Idaho and South Dakota, lawmakers have encouraged schools to partner with local industry leaders.

Such partnerships can be incredibly beneficial to students if local employers and district officials are on the same page regarding the exact credentials kids will need to enter the workforce upon graduation, according to the new Burning Glass study.

Previous research from the group showed that while there are nearly 2,500 distinct credentials requested in job openings across the country, only 50 credentials account for two-thirds of all employer requests.

Researchers said that leaves well over 2,000 credentials that, if earned through a K-12 career education program, could “lead to students earning credentials that provide minimal or no value in the workplace, offering false promises about students’ readiness for success in the workforce.”

One major factor contributing to the skills gap is the disconnect between how employers communicate their hiring requirements–including competency and credentialing requirements–and how students and job seekers communicate how they can meet these requirements, researchers said.

Improved communication between employers, school officials and state policymakers, among other groups, is vital to ensuring CTE programs and labor needs are truly aligned, they concluded.

“All stakeholders must play a role in improving alignment to ensure students have opportunities to be successful,” researchers wrote. “State agencies, policymakers, employers, educators, credentialing entities and families can improve student career readiness by identifying, promoting and reporting valued industry-recognized credentials.”

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