College & Workforce Readiness

States Win $20 Million for Career-Tech-Ed Programs

By Catherine Gewertz — January 11, 2017 3 min read
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Banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. has awarded $20 million in grants to 10 states to build comprehensive career-and-technical-education systems in collaboration with industries in their states.

The grants, announced Wednesday, are part of New Skills for Youth, a $75 million JPMorgan Chase initiative aimed at improving career and tech ed programs. The Council of Chief State School Officers and Advance CTE are working with JPMorgan Chase to evaluate states’ plans and support them as they move forward.

The winning states are Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

A $35 million slice of the $75 million initiative comes in the form of grants to states, which have applied to work on their own CTE systems. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia won $2.5 million in planning grants last spring, and now 10 of those states have each won $2 million, three-year grants to build on the proposals they made in the earlier round of competition.

Chris Minnich, the CCSSO’s executive director, said in a conference call with reporters that the grants are part of a major project undertaken by more than 40 states to modernize career education so that every student can graduate from high school well-prepared to pursue a career. The state chiefs recognize that they are not turning out enough graduates who are ready to work in the jobs of today’s economy: skilled jobs that require more than a high school diploma, Minnich said,.

“This is significant work we hope will close the skills gap that has existed in our country,” he said.

The 10 winning states came up with “comprehensive and aggressive” plans to rework their CTE systems, according to Minnich. Those systems will offer students many “quality options,” including professional certificates that lead to good-paying jobs, and to two-year and four-year college programs.

Evaluation of states’ proposals put a particular emphasis on ensuring that programs serve all students well, Minnich said.

“This isn’t a conversation about either well-off students or not well-off students,” he said. “It’s about all students having access to these programs. CTE cannot be something that is left for a certain group of kids that are not going to college. We’re going to change that in this country, and this grant program is part of that solution.”

Louisiana’s plan includes creating externships for teachers, so they’re better prepared to guide students through career exploration, state Schools Superintendent John White said during the conference call. It will also focus on providing viable pathways for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities. Better career technical education will make high school more interesting for all students, White said.

“High school is often very boring for our kids. We need to be real about that,” White said. “We need to help our kids find their passion and their interest.”

Nevada’s plan dovetails with its recognition that the state can’t depend so heavily on its mining sector anymore, said Brett Barley, the state’s deputy superintendent for student achievement. The state is working hard to recruit high-technology companies, but it needs a workforce to support those “high-growth, high-wage jobs.”

Nevada plans to use its grant to create an office that will oversee and coordinate the state’s workforce efforts, Barley said. It will expand its quality career pathways, particularly in schools with large enrollments of low-income students, and it will pay particular attention to deepening its career advising.

Photo credit: Getty Images

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.