21st Century Students Deserve 21st Century Career & Technical Education

The New Perkins CTE Act is Up for the Challenge

This week the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353) was signed into law, modernizing the only Federal legislation entirely dedicated to increasing the quality of career and technical education (CTE) across the country and providing greater opportunity for America’s youth and adults, the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act. The Perkins CTE Act provides nearly $1.3 billion annually to CTE programs in every State across the country.

CTE opportunities are a powerful mechanism by which young people can diversify their potential career pathways and gain the knowledge and vital skills needed to meet the changing demands of the modern economy.

The Perkins CTE reauthorization will help ensure that all students and young people have access to high-quality CTE programs, so they can thrive in college and today’s workforce. The new law includes some important and exciting provisions that reflect the powerful impact that intermediaries play in communities across the country to improve the quality of CTE.

A few notable provisions that are included in the law for the first time are highlighted below:

The law includes a formal definition of a “qualified intermediary.”

The law now includes a definition of a “qualified intermediary,” defined as intermediaries with a history of partnering with schools, community-based organizations, employers, social service organizations, economic development organizations, and/or workforce systems and demonstrated expertise in the field. States and local grantees are now encouraged to partner with qualified intermediaries in the planning and implementation of CTE programs, delivering professional development, and providing personalized services and supports for CTE students.

This new provision modernizes the Perkins CTE Act and reflects the great work that many expanded learning intermediaries are doing to connect students with internships and other work-based learning opportunities that allow students to explore future career fields and develop strong 21st century skills in a real-world setting.

CTE grantees are encouraged to partner with qualified intermediaries.

The bill also allows local Perkins CTE funding and Statewide Leadership Activities funding to support partnerships with qualified intermediary organizations, meaning intermediaries can partner directly with local CTE grantees and/or the State. These funds may go towards improving training, developing public-private partnerships, systems development, capacity-building and the delivery of high-quality CTE to scale.

The law prioritizes community organization feedback for CTE grant planning.

Under the law, States are required to develop plans to inform how they will utilize Perkins CTE funding to improve the quality of their programs. In developing these plans, States are required to engage with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that their plans reflect the unique needs of their communities. The reauthorization maintains the requirements for stakeholder engagement, and specifically includes community-based organizations within the list of stakeholders that need to be consulted as States develop their CTE plans. Additionally, the new law now requires local CTE grantees to conduct comprehensive needs assessments at least once every two years. Now that local grantees are required to conduct these needs assessments, expanded learning intermediaries have a new and unique opportunity to claim a seat at the table to help inform this work.

Here’s what intermediaries can do now.

Intermediaries should begin to strategize about how they can use this new opportunity to help States and local CTE grantees. Intermediaries should plan to engage their State during the development of their State CTE plan and help local Perkins CTE grantees carry out their needs assessments. Intermediaries should also be proactive in engaging with the State and local Perkins CTE grantees in showing them how their intermediary can improve CTE for students in their community.

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