State CTE Directors Fall Meeting
While I was in Kansas City, a staffer represented SkillsUSA during the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) fall meeting in Baltimore. NASDCTEc meeting agendas are always packed with great information. The first half of this conference focused on leading strategic change and was very much in line with SkillsUSA’s own Vision 2020 when looking at the acceleration of change around us. (Here’s an interesting factoid from workshop leader Langdon Morris to illustrate the rate of change: An iPod – if it had existed in 1976 – would have cost $3.2 billion and would have taken up an entire computer room.)
The second half of the conference got down to specifics on career and technical education including a presentation and a panel discussion by experts on a recently released study entitled Learning for Jobs: The OECD Policy Review of Vocational Education and Training. Simon Field, the project manager for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development cited several of the study’s findings comparing vocational education at the high school level in 34 nations. He began with the point that “The wealth of nations will come to rely more on the skills of their people than on other sources such as natural resources.” As a consequence, nations should be investing in vocational education and, he said, “The top priority should be bridging the gap between school and business.” When compared to other developed nations, Simon said: “The U.S. actually has a good high school CTE structure. It just needs to be used for far more students” and he spoke specifically of those students who delay postsecondary education until they are 28. One of the panelists, Robert Schwartz, professor of practice, Harvard Graduate School of Education, said he has changed his mind on the value of career and technical education. He said the applied method works and that CTE, when focused on a credential – not narrowly job specific – and including employability and occupational skills, is the way to build a society, not just workers.
Staff met with Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, as she began her “national Perkins listening tour” on CTE and we’ve invited her to national conference. We also broached the subject of a briefing at the Department of Education for the Youth Development Foundation Committee meeting to be held in Washington in April and was told: “Get me the dates.” Staff reports that Board Member Milt Ericksen was an outstanding master of ceremonies for the NASDCTEc sessions.