Major Needs of Career and Technical Education in the Year 2000: Views From the Field

Publication April 2001

The National Dissemination Center and the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education are using several methods to identify the needs of the field. The information produced is used to guide the activities of the Centers. The most extensive of the methods are regional need sensing networks. There are five universities in the consortium that operates the Centers.

The 50 states are divided into five regions and each of the universities has responsibility for establishing networks with these seven stakeholder groups within its region:

  1. State-level liaisons appointed by the state directors for CTE
  2. State-level liaisons appointed by the state directors for community colleges
  3. Representatives of professional and business/industry associations with an interest in CTE, including labor unions
  4. Faculty representatives of colleges and universities preparing CTE teachers
  5. Instructors from school districts that offer CTE programs
  6. Instructors from postsecondary institutions that offer CTE programs
  7. Representatives of Native American nations and associations of racial/ethnic groups

During the year 2000, 30 conference calls were conducted with 149 representatives of these groups. The data from these calls, together with that from other sources such as brainstorming with the National Centers’ Advisory Council and discussion on the CAREERTECH listserv, were analyzed to identify the major needs facing the field. This analysis yielded the needs presented in the following list. The list is in a rough priority order as indicated by the number of sources identifying the need and the amount of discussion concerning the need.

Improve the image of CTE: The underlying theme was the need to change the perception that CTE offers an inferior curriculum, appropriate only for those students who cannot meet the demands of a college preparatory program.

Exemplary practices: Identifying and disseminating information about exemplary, or best, practices. The comments reflect a general sense that there are many successful programs and that information about them should be documented and widely disseminated.

Partnerships: Almost all of these comments referred to the need to develop partnerships as a means of keeping programs relevant and aligned with the needs of employers.

Teaching-learning (integration, relevancy): Many concerns related to teaching and learning arose, not surprisingly, from the secondary and postsecondary instructor networks. Two other categories that are actually components of teaching and learning were coded separately: integration of academic and occupational content and relevancy of programs to the needs of the workforce. These three categories, in total, were coded more frequently than any other content area. If partnerships, as a means of ensuring relevancy, are added, this is by far the dominant category as measured by amount of discussion, but it is not a major concern across all sources.

Clearinghouse: What everyone would like is one location, a web site, that is easily searched and contains in a succinct, easily accessible format all the best information anyone would want to know about CTE.

Instructors/Administrators: State-level staff typically spoke of instructors in terms of the difficulty of finding individuals with the necessary technical qualifications to teach classes. Many secondary representatives expressed an interest in how other states are dealing with alternative certification. Some participants noted that it is even more difficult to find qualified CTE administrators than it is to find instructors. Three themes dominated the discussion among teacher educators: recruitment into preservice programs, induction and retention of new teachers, and alternative certification procedures.

Professional development: This occurred frequently among the teacher educators, secondary state-level representatives, and tribal/racial/ethnic networks. Like exemplary practices and clearinghouse, professional development was mentioned with reference to many different content areas.

Technology, distance education: Most of these comments noted the need to prepare instructors to use information technology (web pages, threaded discussions, e-mail, Internet sites, etc.) to enhance instruction in the classroom and to deliver CTE courses through distance education. There was some discussion of proprietary information technology certification.

Assessment: Almost all the comments related to the most effective way to measure the performance/learning of both academic and technical skills. Some participants asked about the utility of national tests.

Implications of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998: This Act became effective July 1, 2000 and made many changes in eligibility, accountability, and funding for skill training. It could have impact far beyond the students served under WIA.

Skill shortages, basic skills: The employer representatives in the business/ union/association networks consistently cited the difficulties of finding workers with appropriate skills as their major problem. Some employers also noted low basic skill levels, especially in mathematics.

Multiple problems of constituents: Participants in three of the four conference calls with tribal/racial/ethnic networks spoke of the multiple problems that many of their constituents face. Before addressing skill-training needs, students represented by these stakeholders must deal with problems of bureaucracy and daily living, including in some cases, learning English.

The current agenda of the National Centers addresses many of the needs that were identified, but there are dimensions of all of them that are not being examined. Resource constraints will prevent the National Centers from conducting all that should be done. It is the hope of those involved with the needs sensing that these results will prove useful to all of the field as decisions are made concerning the type of research, dissemination, and professional development activities that should be conducted.

Lewis, M. V. (2001, April). Major needs of career and technical education in the year 2000: Views from the field. St. Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota.

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