75 years of service to our nation

CNA Education Research in 2017

In 2017, CNA Education will explore how to bridge the gap between military skills and job skills. The military has recently faced several challenges to gaining and cultivating quality servicemembers. At the same time, career and technical education (CTE) has been drawing attention for its ability to equip students with both concrete technical skills and more general skills such as problem solving and critical thinking. To begin exploring how CTE can align with the military’s training needs, CNA Education, in collaboration with CNA’s Resource Analysis Division (RAD), is conducting a study to find out whether having a CTE background affects recruits’ military career success.

In a constantly evolving threat environment, the need for adaptable servicemembers with strong technical skills has grown, and the inadequate academic preparation of some military recruits is an ever more pressing issue. In the last few years, better economic conditions and lower unemployment have further reduced the supply of qualified recruits for the military. These factors present significant obstacles to the military’s goal of raising servicemember quality while maintaining an all-volunteer service.

The military could mitigate this problem by looking to recruits who have completed CTE coursework. Students completing CTE coursework develop core academic skills; employability skills; and technical, job-specific skills that could be useful in military occupations. Individuals who have completed military occupation–aligned CTE coursework and programs may therefore provide the military with a more capable fighting force.

In determining the extent to which CTE-trained individuals could contribute to military objectives, one question of interest is whether students who have completed CTE coursework prior to accession are more successful in the military than those who have not. A related question is whether students who have completed CTE coursework that is related to their eventual military occupation are more successful in the military than those who do not have such preparation.

Unfortunately, little is currently known about CTE students’ military career outcomes, including promotion, retention, and amount of disciplinary infractions. There is little research on whether students who complete CTE programs are more successful in the military than their peers who do not. Additionally, there is little evidence on whether students who complete CTE programs that align with their military occupations are more successful than their peers.

A research study that examines these questions could inform the military’s recruiting practices and improve recruitment success rates while reducing cost. It also could expand the number of recruits considered well qualified for work in the military. For example, if CTE high school diploma graduates exhibit better military outcomes than regular high school diploma graduates, individuals with CTE credits who are not high school diploma graduates may also perform better than their non-CTE counterparts. Positive findings could motivate subsequent research on the success of recruits who are vocational adult education students. Positive findings might also increase the likelihood that recruiters will consider CTE students well qualified for military service.

This study will provide a summary of lessons learned and a framework for estimating CTE’s effect on military career outcomes such as retention and promotion. The study will:

  • Inform military service recruiting practices.
  • Improve recruitment success rates while reducing service cost.
  • Expand the number of recruits considered well qualified for work in the military.
  • Provide evidence that CTE programs improve employment outcomes.

The intended outcome of this effort will be to help develop "one language" that is spoken and understood by the military and the workforce, leading to clear skills alignment and sustainable employment for our servicemembers.

Stacey Jordan, Vice President, Education
Tom Geraghty, Research Scientist
Rikesh Nana, Research Specialist
Juliana Pearson, Associate Research Analyst
Elizabeth Clelan, Research Scientist
David Gregory, Senior Research Programmer

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