Chambers Urge Stronger Link Between Career Education Funding, Work Needs

The California Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of local chambers of commerce are asking legislators to broaden the criteria for career technical education grants to include more activities proven to help prepare students for the working world.

The changes would better apply Career Technical Education (CTE) Incentive Grant funding to Linked Learning programs.

The CalChamber and local chambers have suggested changes to AB 1743 (O’Donnell; D-Long Beach), which passed the Assembly Education Committee this week on a vote of 6-0.

The goal of Linked Learning is to provide graduates with the widest array of postsecondary options, including enrollment into four-year college programs without remediation, as well as apprenticeships, two-year college programs, and certificates, all with the 21st century skills to succeed in the workforce.

Need for Skilled Workers

California’s long-term economic growth depends on a steady stream of highly skilled workers. Although job growth in California has been robust since the last recession, that growth has slowed recently due to a lack of employable workers.

The statewide labor force slowed to a growth rate of 0.6% in 2017, just two-thirds of the average rate since 1990. The slowing has occurred as job openings across skilled and unskilled occupations alike have reached record highs.

The projected shortage of skilled workers over the next generation is more than a million college graduates with bachelor’s degrees, as well as hundreds of thousands of workers with two-year associate’s degrees and certificates.

Linked Learning programs have demonstrated they can produce students who have the skills that employers need.

Past Efforts

Over the last four years, California has invested $1.5 billion in Linked Learning career pathways and career technical education, which is one of the pillars of Linked Learning. The grants were effective in supporting and expanding a range of CTE programs and career pathways. These funds were used for a variety of activities, including hiring CTE teachers and industry liaisons, instructional materials, building labs, and providing transportation for students to participate in work-based learning.

Funding for CTE incentive grants is essential for continuing success for Linked Learning programs (as well as other CTE models). But the experience of Linked Learning schools has been that the CTE Incentive Grant criteria recognized a too-narrow conception of CTE, in effect barring programs like Linked Learning that structure instruction by integrating career training coursework with the academic subjects.

For example, students enrolled in a Linked Learning engineering pathway will delve into the career theme in their CTE courses, but also in English, social studies, and math classes, thereby designating the teachers of those subjects as participants in the pathway team. This interaction not only further engages the students in their studies and expands their career knowledge and experience, but also ensures that those students meet eligibility requirements for four-year colleges/universities.

Infusing instruction with skills and examples from present day industry standards requires competencies historically not offered in teacher preparation programs. To support their staff in implementing quality Linked Learning, many school districts send their teachers to professional development activities.

Under the CTE Incentive Grant, school districts are limited to sending only their CTE teachers to a career-based professional development program to support the pathway while excluding the English, math, or science teachers who are responsible for infusing engineering content into their curriculum.

This pattern repeats in other aspects of the Linked Learning model.

Changes to AB 1743 under consideration would specifically recognize college readiness programs that are integrated with CTE programs in devising incentive grant criteria.

Staff Contact: Jennifer Barrera

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Jennifer Barrera took over as president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce on October 1, 2021. She has been part of the CalChamber team since 2010 and stepped into the top position after serving as CalChamber executive vice president, overseeing the development and implementation of policy and strategy for the organization, as well as representing the CalChamber on legal reform issues. Barrera is well-known for her success rate with the CalChamber’s annual list of job killer legislation, efforts to reform the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and leadership working with employers on critical issues, including most recently those arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, she advises the business compliance activities of the CalChamber on interpreting changes in employment law. Barrera earned a B.A. in English from California State University, Bakersfield, and a J.D. with high honors from California Western School of Law. See full bio