Published on 2013/07/12

Changes Critical for Success of Career and Technical Training Programs

The decentralized nature of American career and technical education (CTE) programs must be balanced with robust quality standards to make them beneficial for today’s learners.

This is the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The report, titled “A Skills beyond School Review of the United States,” points out that while having a variety of CTE programs available is helpful for students and employers, many are lacking accountability. These shortcomings simultaneously weaken their appeal to these audiences.

“The options in the United States for attending college part time, or as an adult or returning student, are also an advantage,” Simon Field, a co-author of the report, said at a presentation at the New America Foundation’s headquarters. “But that diversity of institutions, programs, credentials, and oversight policies carries a downside.”

Since American CTE programs are diverse and decentralized, Field said it can be confusing for students and employers to know which of these programs are high quality.

“The blend of relatively weak quality assurance with increasing tuition fees, constrained public budgets, and broader economic distress creates a dangerous mix with financial risks both for individuals and lending bodies, including the federal government,” states the report.

Compared to the other 25 countries the OECD studied, the United States was deemed among the least demanding when it comes to granting funding and accreditation to academic programs.

Among the recommendations in the report is a suggestion to tailor training to the real-world needs of employers, both big and small, and to develop and support prior learning assessments. This would, according to the OECD, encourage more non-traditional students to enroll in CTE programs.

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