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New ExcelinEd Policy Resource Helps States Improve Their Career and Technical Education Programs

The “skills gap” in today’s workforce is real. The Department of Labor released the statistic this summer of 6.2 million job openings nationwide—yet at the same time, 7 million Americans were unemployed. This disconnect takes a tremendous toll on individuals and our nation’s economy.

Preparing students for entry and advancement in today’s workforce has become a top priority in some states. In other states, however, career and technical education (CTE) is languishing as a “dead end” pathway for students not bound for college.

To assist states in improving the relevance and value of their CTE programs, ExcelinEd has published Putting Career and Technical Education to Work for Students: A Playbook for State Policymakers. The playbook examines challenges to improving CTE program quality and puts forth a practical process states can use to align their programs with regional and state labor data and industry demands.

“The workplace never stops evolving, so states must continually meet the challenge of preparing students for job success by creating education pathways that align with the needs of employers,” said Patricia Levesque, CEO of ExcelinEd. “This playbook outlines how to create 21st-century career and technical education programs and also highlights how some states are successfully preparing their students for the workplace of tomorrow.”

To guide CTE program improvement, the playbook puts forward a set of “non-negotiables” that state policymakers can adopt, and commit to, when evaluating and revitalizing their programs. For example, all programs of study should align with state and/or regional industry and labor market data; programs should incorporate experiential learning; and educators should receive ongoing, progressive training and professional development to ensure their instruction reflects current industry work environments.

“It’s equally critical that CTE programs are high-quality in terms of rigorous academic preparation,” said ExcelinEd Director Quentin Suffren. “In fact, they should incorporate courses and exams eligible for postsecondary credit or hours, wherever appropriate.”

Recommendations in the playbook assume no additional funding, a bonus for states struggling to fund educational improvements. Furthermore, most state education or workforce agencies are able to implement the recommendations immediately, without the additional step of legislative action.

ExcelinEd’s resources are designed to support states as they navigate improvements to their CTE programs, with the goal of providing students across the nation opportunities for lifelong advancement and success. For more information, visit