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#AskExcelinEd: What are key elements of strong cross-sector partnerships for CTE programs?


• Dr. Danielle Mezera

ExcelinEd’s latest playbook series helps stakeholders better align career and technical education (CTE) programs with industry demands in their region and state. The five playbooks and accompanying resources will provide state education leaders and local employers a practical guide for improving the “education to career” pipelines in their states.

Successful CTE programs depend on cross-sector partnerships among business and industry organizations, K-12 education and post-secondary institutions. Yet these partnerships are not always present or assured, and they can be challenging to cultivate and maintain. So what elements make up a strong cross-sector partnership?

In writing this new playbook, we looked at existing cross-sector partnerships across the nation to identify high-quality, cross-sector work that can be replicated across various state, regional and local platforms. After speaking with these partners—convening agencies, state/regional/local employers, K-12 education leaders and post-secondary institutions—we identified seven consistent elements of strong cross-sector partnerships.

  1. Convening Agency or Intermediary: Begin by identifying which leader(s) and what entity will spearhead the partnership initiatives.
  2. Clear Purpose and Established Protocols: Articulate the rationale for a cross-sector partnership.
  3. Purposeful Stakeholder Recruitment: Identify and articulate what types of support are necessary to complete the work before contacting potential participants.
  4. Mutual Benefit and Shared Value: Ensure partnerships are mutually beneficial and based on trust and shared purpose.
  5. Open Lines of Communication: Maintain coordinated and consistent stakeholder communications.
  6. Clear Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities: Establish formal partnership agreements that spell out the various roles and responsibilities.
  7. Process-Wide Success Metrics: Identify formal metrics to evaluate and measure success across all work.

These seven elements are essential to create a high-quality state Career and Technical Education program that leverages the vertical alignment of robust education-to-occupation pathways to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the state.


For more information, check out Building Cross-Sector Partnerships to Support Career and Technical Education Pathways: A Playbook for State Policymakers. The playbook includes insights from experienced leaders, a Cross-Sector Partnership Toolbox with examples of tools and materials from convening organizations, and state policy recommendations to incentivize and promote robust partnerships.


About the author


Dr. Danielle Mezera

In March 2017, Danielle Mezera launched her boutique consulting firm, DCM Consulting, specializing in K-12 and postsecondary education and the intersection of these to inform strong education-to-career learning pathways. Prior to this, Mezera served as the Assistant Commissioner for College, Career and Technical Education for the Tennessee Department of Education. As Assistant Commissioner, Mezera oversaw CTE curricula, state-promoted early postsecondary course offerings, ACT/SAT, postsecondary matriculation initiatives, K-12 school counseling and work-based learning. She also served as state lead with Pathways to Prosperity Network and the J.P. Morgan Chase - New Skills for Youth grants. Prior to assuming her state role, Mezera served as chief education policy advisor for Mayor Purcell and Mayor Dean of Nashville-Davidson County. Before entering public service, Mezera served as a director at the Vanderbilt University Institute for Public Policy Studies. During her tenure at Vanderbilt University, Danielle held various senior level positions in administration. Mezera holds a B.A., M.Ed. and Ph.D. in education.