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Perkins Elevates Career Pathways

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century” Act (Perkins V) is ushering in a new way of thinking about quality career and technical education (CTE). Perkins V presents an expanded definition of career pathways, and state educational agencies have taken note. Many, including Wisconsin, see it as an opportunity to incorporate “career pathways” into the previous programs of study (POS). Career pathways more accurately reflect a “career pathway system” that provides students with the education, training, work experience, and other supports to advance within a career ladder.

Career pathways require CTE programs to focus on quality and course progression by:

  • Developing and implementing career pathways aligned to state and local economic needs
  • Adopting and integrating rigorous coursework through recognized postsecondary credentials and work-based learning
  • Aligning CTE programs with high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand industry sectors targeted to special populations, and ensuring accountability using core performance indicators.

In 2017, Wisconsin received a national grant to test a career pathways model. The lessons learned from the pilot regions are helping to pave the way for all Wisconsin’s districts to qualify for Perkins funding. Specifically, the quality elements of career pathways are now part of the new definitions for size, scope, and quality, a requirement for Perkins grant funding.

The important elements that incorporate quality into CTE career pathways include:

  • A sequence of CTE courses
  • Work-based learning experiences
  • Dual-enrollment college-credit classes that will count toward credit in postsecondary education settings
  • An industry-recognized credential
  • Career and technical student organizations/career-related activities

In addition, CTE career pathways should continually be re-examined in light of local, regional, and state economic data to ensure that they are still relevant.

“One of the exciting things about the model is that it includes support for individual districts, regardless of their size, through regional talent collaboratives,” says Robin Kroyer-Kubicek, DPI education consultant for career pathways, skills standards, and work-based learning.

Regional talent collaboratives consist of representatives from these key sectors:

  • Industry sector employers and their associations
  • Workforce development
  • Economic development
  • Higher education (both two-year and four-year)
  • K12 schools
  • CESAs

Collaboratives work together to plan, implement, and monitor state-endorsed career pathways that are adopted by the region for further development in their partner K12 school districts, postsecondary institutions, and beyond.

The collaborative goal is to increase the number of students completing high-skill, high-demand career pathways. By adapting the state-endorsed career pathway to the needs of a specific region, districts can make the best use of the resources of their collaborative’s members. In the process, employers can coordinate their efforts with K12 schools in their area and can provide a broad range of support for a variety of career-based learning experiences.

—Submitted by Robin Kroyer-Kubicek, Education Consultant, Career Pathways, and Christine Lenske, Grant Specialist, both with the Career and Technical Education, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction