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2013 NPS: Federal Agencies Collaborate on Career Pathways


March 15, 2013

2013 NPS: Federal Agencies Collaborate on Career Pathways

By: Kandy Smitha, ACTE Fellow

The 2013 National Policy Seminar closing session started with greetings and remarks by Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary for the Employment and Training Administration.

Ms. Oates began with a history of her career starting as a 9th grade teacher in Boston and Philadelphia. She has been an advocate for CTE since the 1970s. She feels it is critical that elected officials and their staff members get involved with CTE and that the staff members we meet with on Capitol Hill communicate with those elected officials. She encouraged us to get personal with our elected officials and put a face on CTE. We want them to provide funding and structure, but not to micromanage, and make sure the law fits for what we need to do. Let them know we, as educators, are happy to be accountable for what we do.

She is convinced that every worker will need some postsecondary education. One example of job openings that will be prevalent in the future is air traffic controllers, where the average age now is 54. According to Ms. Oates, there are currently 86,000 jobs in cyber security and we need programs to get them prepared for this career pathway. In addition, we are importing more welders from other countries than we are training here in the U.S. She admonished us to stay true to our basics but to make them relevant. "CTE teachers are key players in making government work," stated Ms. Oates. "CTE is the difference between a frivolous expense and an investment."

Ms. Oates suggested utilizing career technical student organizations to help develop the soft skills needed by students to be successful. She also suggested we "take the gloves off" and talk about the needs of our schools. Talk about how many students are successful and get rid of the old misconception that CTE students are not college-bound students. She is open to any way her department can help.

Following Ms. Oates, a panel session on the Federal Focus on Career Pathways kicked off with Mary Alice McCarthy from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and Brendan Kelly of the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Brendan stated that CTE has promise to increase the earning potential of the average worker and that career pathways help to guide students to their goals. He also stated that people are bad at choosing and are often overloaded with choices and make no choice at all. Career pathways help to make those choices. Mary Alice then took the stage with a question. She asked how many of us attending had seen the letter placed on our table that was addressed to their colleagues in Washington. Most of us were unaware of the letter. The purpose of the letter was to bring awareness of the joint Career Pathways Initiative from the Departments of Labor, Education and HHS and to establish a common language for career pathways. Attached to the letter is a layout of how to create a pathway.

Following these presentations, my colleagues and I braved the weather to meet with a legislator on Capitol Hill, and then we were homeward bound!

Kandy Smitha is a 2013 ACTE Fellow from Region III and an instructor of Advanced Life Sciences and Veterinary Assisting at J. Everett Light Career Center in Indianapolis.

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