The Obama Administration has once again demonstrated the important role community colleges play in educating our nation’s workforce and boosting our nation’s economy with its recently proposed Community College to Career Fund. This $8 billion fund is aimed at forging partnerships between colleges and businesses to train workers for good-paying jobs in high-demand fields. To be positioned to benefit from this and other potential opportunities, the California Community Colleges (CCC) should accelerate efforts to strengthen and streamline career technical education (CTE). Our research reveals a potential for much greater value to be realized from the CTE mission area. Despite healthy course enrollments and credit accumulation in vocational coursework, only a small percentage of students earn certificates or vocational associate degrees. The colleges collectively offer a vast array of CTE programs that our research tells us could be better shaped to meet student and employer needs.
As a follow up to our February 2011 report, The Road Less Traveled, we have embarked on a four-part project to examine the status of the CTE mission area of the California Community Colleges and ultimately to identify ways that state and system policy can best support colleges in operating CTE programs that meet the needs of students and their regions. The first report, released January 2012, concluded that fragmented and complex organizational structures and funding arrangements preclude development of a coherent systemwide strategy for CTE.
For this second report, we examine the full set of career-oriented credentials offered by the CCC. We inventory CTE programs across the system and analyze program information as a basis for understanding how the breadth and complexity of CTE programming within and across colleges contributes to the overall performance of CTE. We also strive to determine how well the CTE programs offered across the system are meeting students’ needs to identify, enroll in, and complete programs with real value in today’s labor market.