Lul Tesfai, Senior Policy Director
February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) month—a time to celebrate the achievements of CTE students and recognize the important role CTE plays in improving the education, credentialing, career readiness, employment, and earnings outcomes of many youth and adults. These individuals include high school students eager to get a head start in the competitive job market, low-skilled men and women striving to develop foundational academic and in-demand technical skills, formerly incarcerated individuals who have paid their debt to society and are seeking an opportunity to maximize newly acquired credentials, unemployed or malemployed adults motivated to explore a different career path, foreign-educated immigrants and refugees interested in obtaining the U.S. credentials needed to continue in their original professions, and individuals without a high school diploma who are determined to complete career pathways that result in attaining both secondary and postsecondary degrees.
While Congress has yet to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins, the main source of federal funding for CTE at the secondary and postsecondary levels), several recent legislative actions have paved the way for improvements in CTE. For example, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which funds a substantial portion of federal investments in education and training, was passed in July 2014 to allow states to include Perkins (among other optional federally funded programs) in a combined state plan, supplementing WIOA’s core formula grant programs (which include the adult, dislocated worker, and youth programs under Title I; adult education activities under Title II; Wagner-Peyser Employment Service activities under Title III; and vocational rehabilitation services under Title IV). Five states—Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia—have elected to include Perkins in their WIOA state plans, thus strengthening the alignment of career-oriented training programs and investments within their states.
Additionally, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was passed in December 2015 to replace the No Child Left Behind Act, includes significant support for CTE. Most notably, CTE is now included in the definition of a well-rounded education.
Research points to the promise of CTE in supporting pathways to labor market success and self-sufficiency in our 21st-century economy. However, there is more work to be done to understand CTE’s full impact, especially in light of recent and anticipated legislative and policy reforms. CNA is currently evaluating a Tennessee program that provides courses and on-the-job training for those interested in careers as maintenance technicians or process technicians. CNA is also exploring research into the effectiveness of pre-apprenticeship CTE models and career readiness strategies—just to highlight a few upcoming projects. Check CNA’s website for the latest during CTE month and beyond!
Lul Tesfai has expertise in policy and strategy development for adult CTE. She most recently served as a Director of Policy for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, where she refined the reauthorization strategy for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and provided technical assistance to Congress. She also has experience in quantitative and qualitative research and analysis of discriminatory federal, state, and local government housing policies and housing mobility initiatives.
Lul holds an M.P.P. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in political science and international studies from Northwestern University.
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