"Coordinate With Business to Build Needed Job Skills" - Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller

In honor of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, I want to emphasize the importance of building high-quality CTE programs that focus on meeting the needs of the 21st century economy. We know that strong CTE programs require collaboration among secondary and postsecondary education institutions, employers, industry, and other partners, for example labor unions and trade organizations. We also must ensure that these programs provide students and workers with skills that are adaptable to the needs of local and regional economies.

The skills that an individual needs to work in a variety of industries are constantly evolving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the hardest jobs to fill are those requiring “middle skills,” that is, those jobs that require education beyond a high school diploma but do not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree. Middle-skill jobs include occupations such as software engineers, aircraft mechanics, and electricians. Jobs that previously could be filled by workers with no more than a high school degree now require more specialized training—for example, many manufacturing jobs require knowledge and skills in computing technology. We also know that the current demand for workers with associate degrees, particularly in fields like health care, computing, and business services, is outpacing the demand for those with bachelor’s degrees.

Therefore we must keep working to provide programs of study at all levels—from K-12 through advanced degree programs—that maintain challenging academic standards tailored to local, regional, and future workforce needs. We should expand opportunities for secondary school students to participate in dual or concurrent enrollment programs, create challenging work experiences for students through apprenticeships and industry-based training, and ensure that educational content is engaging for students in the fields where they will find jobs available upon graduation.

Thank you very much for your efforts to build, support, and highlight high-quality CTE programs that meet the needs of tomorrow’s economy.