Opportunity Nation highlights career and technical education
As the presidential primary field narrows, Opportunity Nation continues to emphasize the importance of education and economic mobility in the upcoming presidential election. Recently, Opportunity Nation created a plan, Restoring the American Dream: A Presidential Plan to Expand Opportunity, which highlights 12 key actions that the next president should take to increase opportunity in the United States.
In a recent blogpost, Opportunity Nation called attention to the importance of high quality career and technical education (CTE), featuring the work of various coalition members that are making improvements in this field. The current education system is not keeping up with the demands of tomorrow’s workforce, and according to a Georgetown University study called “The Economic Value of College Majors,” the economy will lack five million workers with postsecondary degrees by 2020 unless the US postsecondary education system undergoes major change.
CTE presents one solution to this problem, creating benefits for both individuals and the greater economy. “CTE-related coursework and training can positively impact a student’s employment and earnings. Students who earn an associate’s degree and concentrate in many CTE related fields can realize greater earnings than their non-CTE peers. One study found that a person with a CTE-related associate degree or credential has, on average, an annual income between $4,000 and $19,000 more than a person with a humanities associate’s degree,” the Opportunity Nation blogpost said.
National Academy Foundation (NAF), an Opportunity Nation coalition member, has developed an industry-focused curriculum and work-based learning experiences in the fields of finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology, engineering and health sciences. According to the Opportunity Nation blogpost, “during the 2015-16 school year nearly 89,000 students attended 716 NAF academies across 36 states. In 2015, NAF academies reported 98 percent of seniors graduated and 92 percent of those graduates intended to pursue post-secondary credentials or degrees.” Meanwhile, NAFTrack Certified Hiring promises that special consideration is given to college students and job applicants who earn the NAFTrack Certification as high school graduates. Thirteen of America’s top companies, including Lenovo and Verizon, have committed to NAFTrack Certified Hiring.
Another coalition member, Citizen Schools, works with volunteer educators and low-income public middle schools to create opportunities for students to gain CTE skills. Each semester, students select two apprenticeships that give them the opportunity to explore various fields and careers through hands-on, project-based learning and mentorship.
Opportunity Nation calls on the next president to continue the work of NAF and Citizen Schools, outlining specific recommendations that the president could take in order to increase and realize the potential of CTE. The blogpost laid out these suggestions:
- Ensuring increased collaboration and coordination between secondary and postsecondary institutions
- Ensuring increased collaboration between CTE and the private sector
- Aligning CTE programs with regional and state workforce needs
- Exposing students to career and work-based learning opportunities
- Rewarding evidence-based practices with a focus on programs that can be scaled and replicated, and leverage more support from the private sector