Career/Tech Education

Big Payoffs for Manufacturing Apprenticeships in Ky.

Students who enrolled in an advanced manufacturing apprenticeship program in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System were significantly more likely than their peers to complete their program of study, according to a new report from Opportunity America and the Brookings Institution. Graduates of the apprenticeship program also substantially outearned their peers.

The research tracked students who enrolled between 2010-11 and 2016-17. It controlled for geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds while also tracking outcomes across gender, race and ethnicity.

The report found that roughly 80 percent of the manufacturing apprenticeship students completed their program, compared to 29 percent of other KCTCS students. And one year after completion, graduates of the apprenticeship program had median annual earnings of $59,164, compared with $36,379 for their peers. Three years after completion, the former apprentices were earning $89,360 compared to $41,085 for their peers. Graduates' reviews of the apprenticeships were overwhelmingly positive, the report found.

"Our principal recommendation for policymakers and employers and educators seeking to launch career and technical education programs: earn-and-learn training works, and the nation should redouble its efforts to take the model to scale," concluded the report's authors, Tamar Jacoby, Opportunity America's president, and Ron Haskins, a senior fellow emeritus in economic studies at Brookings.

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Education Department's new $120 million in grants for short-term career programs

The Education Department plans to distribute more than $120 million in grants for short-term programs. Which pathways should that money fund?

Overlap in Labor Market Returns for Diplomas and Degrees

The annual wages of American workers who hold only a high school credential and are in the top half of earners within that group overlap with wages of the bottom half of earners among college graduates, according to a new report from the Manhattan Institute.

In addition, the report found that the 75th percentile of earners among high school-only workers have higher wages than the 25th percentile of earners among college graduates -- meaning that every worker among the top 25 percent of high school graduates in annual wages outperforms every worker in the bottom 25 percent of college graduates.

"This is not because older workers earn more than younger ones, or because workers in prosperous cities earn more than those in struggling towns," said the report, which was authored by Connor Harris, a policy analyst for the institute. "No matter how the data are cut, the reality remains that the labor market is complex: for many people, a high school diploma can be adequate preparation; for many people, a college degree accomplishes little."

The research brief was based on 2017 U.S. Census data on full-time workers between the ages of 25 and 64. It controlled for age and geography and analyzed occupations for workers with overlapping earnings.

"Although college remains a good choice for those who will succeed there and put their degrees to use, many who pursue college today might be better served by alternative pathways toward occupations that require less formal education and offer a chance for advancement," the report concluded. "This is true despite a monomaniacal focus on college preparation and attendance in the American education system."

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Public universities in several states are required to buy from prison industries

Public universities in several states are obligated to buy furniture and other products made in state prisons, which some students call exploitative.

University flight programs ramp up private partnerships

Airlines are agitating for more pilots, making donations and partnering with university flight programs to help create a better pipeline of degree-toting aviators.

Essay on short-term credentials and the equity agenda for community colleges

Providing Pell funds for short-term training programs stands out as one of the few creative federal initiatives of interest for community college workforce practitioners. Colleges would have the ability to offer educational programs in bite-size pieces to suit the needs of working adults, significantly advancing efforts to bring together credit and noncredit workforce opportunities into a coherent system.

However, this concept may be a giant step backward for these institutions and the students they serve unless the proposed changes to Pell are given careful consideration. I offer three potential unintended consequences for social and economic equity that policy makers so far have failed to address with bills that would open up Pell Grants to shorter-term programs.

First, the jury is still out on how effective short-term training programs are in raising wages or increasing employment. After all, community college students (and all postsecondary students) go to college to learn skills to get a better job and make more money. Recent empirical research by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College indicates that while some credentials do provide increased earnings, over all the majority do not provide significant wage increases -- especially when compared to programs that lead to a degree.

Though touted among policy wonks, the “stacking” of credentials into an aggregation of mastered skills that can produce degrees is a process that lacks coherence among the majority of community colleges and offers little data to support employment or income gains. Perhaps equally important, there is no significant growth in employer acceptance of certificates instead of degrees. During my time as president of Michigan’s Macomb Community College, I found that degrees always matter to employers more than any other measurement of success in hiring our students.

Second, investing Pell in short-term training may not advance long-term job prospects for students. Most predictions on the future of work suggest sustaining employment will depend on workers’ abilities to master new skills on the job. Short-term training programs tend to develop specialized skills, which may get an individual a job in the near term, but not necessarily include the foundational competencies that can affect income mobility -- where it counts -- on the job. Indeed, the short-term approach reinforces the overspecialization of skills training, which many employers have historically complained about, while also underemphasizing the need for foundation skills.

Finally, opening up Pell to short-term training may result in an increase of tracking less prepared students into these programs.

Take the flagship community college workforce program -- nursing. In almost every community college, this program is in high demand, with far more students applying than can be accepted. As a result, “options” are then offered to underprepared students -- often low-income students of color -- into certificate programs for nursing aides, or at best licensed practical nurse (L.P.N.) programs.

The reality is that few of these options create pathways into nursing. Apply this trend to manufacturing, information technology and other occupational training programs and the potential unintended consequence is that certificate “completion” no longer establishes a floor for students to continue their studies, but rather imposes a ceiling that can prevent students from moving upward. Further, proliferation of certificate programs in this way risks creating a two-tiered community college completion system, effectively exacerbating education inequality.

This does not mean there is no role for Pell funding of short-term training. In fact, simple but important modifications could be adapted to help ensure that some of the above-mentioned abuses do not occur.

First, all short-term federal funding should be targeted toward pathways for degree completion. Short-term programs can initiate a start in college for a student, but they must also be part of a program that includes foundation skills and the possibility of earning a degree. In addition, job-quality criteria must be part of short-term Pell. That means colleges offering short-term training that leads to a certificate must demonstrate that those credentials have value in the labor market. And if legislation allows companies to accept Pell funding to provide short-term training, they must show that those federal subsidies enhance individual workers’ wages and increase employment upon completion. Otherwise employers should be liable for the costs associated with the training.

Finally, institutions who use short-term training will be obligated to provide outcomes data on their graduates to demonstrate wage gains and community growth.

Educational policy has always been characterized by a search for new innovations to make things better for students. Change should be considered especially to promote equity. But we need to remember the vision that created Pell as an intergenerational program to promote mobility and economic opportunity. We need to maintain this perspective as we consider whether short-term programs should have access to Pell.

Jim Jacobs is president emeritus at Macomb Community College and a research affiliate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

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CUNY partners with industry to build STEM courses

With guidance from industry, faculty members at the City University of New York system are designing new curricula in data science and cybersecurity.

Federal report says U.S. needs more technical workers, not necessarily with bachelor's degrees

Federal report suggests that bias toward the bachelor's degree is contributing to potential shortfall of millions of electricians and welders.

Career and technology education is an effective pathway to earning money

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Report finds career and technology education courses have a higher wage return for those with no college degree than academic ones.

DeVos Issues Final Repeal of Gainful Employment

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday issued the final repeal of regulations crafted by the Obama administration to hold low-quality career education programs accountable.

The rule, known as gainful employment, was heavily criticized by the for-profit college sector and Republicans in Congress. In the first gainful-employment ratings released in 2017, 98 percent of programs that failed the standards were operated by for-profit institutions.

The Education Department estimated that repealing the rule would cost $6.2 billion over 10 years in payments for Pell Grants and student loans for programs that otherwise would have been cut off from federal aid.

Critics complained that gainful employment, which sought to penalize programs that produced too many graduates with unmanageable student debt, discriminated against programs based on their tax status. DeVos said overhauling the rule was one of her first priorities as secretary. Eventually she proposed repealing the rule entirely, but that process has been delayed by bureaucratic hurdles at the department.

DeVos was required to convene a negotiated rule-making panel, including industry representatives and consumer groups, which failed to produce a new rule. After she subsequently issued a proposal to rescind gainful employment entirely, the department received tens of thousands of public comments it had to review before final repeal. A Trump administration official subsequently said the department would fail to meet a deadline to repeal the rule last November. That meant the earliest the rule could be repealed is July 2020.

The Education Department has taken few steps to enforce the rule since 2017. And consumer groups and Democrats in Congress were quick to criticize the latest step by DeVos to roll back higher ed regulations. Representative Bobby Scott, the chairman of the House education committee, said in a statement that repealing rather than revising the regulations "will prop up low-quality for-profit colleges at the expense of students and taxpayers."

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