Preliminary Analysis of Career and Technical Education in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE R.I. (April 2015) – Today RIPEC released a baseline analysis of Rhode Island’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) system intended to aid the state’s new Career and Technical Board of Trustees in anticipation of the group’s first official meeting. The Board of Trustees, established as part of legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2014, is tasked with improving the coordination and direction of CTE in Rhode Island. RIPEC partnered with Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, former Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, to prepare the report as a recommended starting point for discussions by the Board. To see the legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2014, click here and to view the U.S. Department of Education’s blueprint for transforming CTE, click here.

There has been a resurgence of interest in CTE in recent years as policymakers recognize the need for a skilled workforce in light of some jobs remaining persistently unfilled and the looming retirement of a large number of current workers. In response, the General Assembly enacted CTE reform legislation last year that creates the new Career and Technical Board of Trustees as well as a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity designed to provide funding for CTE programs. Rhode Island’s existing CTE system is primarily governed by regulations promulgated in 2012 by the then-Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education (now simply the Board of Education). These regulations require the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to design and monitor the state’s CTE system while leaving program delivery to individual Local Education Agencies (LEA).

The RIPEC report issued today provides an overview of Rhode Island’s current CTE system and identifies three primary areas for further discussion by the Board of Trustees: funding, alignment, and employer involvement. Funding for CTE in Rhode Island is currently provided primarily through the federal Perkins Act and the report recommends that the Board of Trustees explore whether or not existing funding streams are sufficient to operate a high-quality CTE system as well as determining if current funds are being used efficiently and effectively. The report also recommends that the Board of Trustees examine how well the state’s CTE system is aligned to the needs of employers, particularly those in high-growth industries that are projected to need workers in the years ahead. Finally, the report recommends that the Board of Trustees ascertain the current level of employer and business community involvement in the development and implementation of CTE programs as well as determining steps that can be taken to increase the involvement of employers.

Although the report finds that many of the elements needed for a high-quality CTE system are already in place in Rhode Island, including dedicated and talented staff and a number of excellent programs, there are also significant deficiencies that need to be addressed. Most notably, the state’s CTE system is not currently aligned to the needs of employers and numerous program gaps and duplications exist. Inconsistent program descriptions and data limitations hampered RIPEC’s ability to fully determine how effectively the current system serves students and employers. Therefore, the report concludes that the Board of Trustees should examine alternative methods of data collection as part of a deeper analysis of Rhode Island’s CTE system that should also include postsecondary and adult education programs.

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