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Access to Qualified Instructors a Challenge in Michigan's CTE School-to-Jobs Pipeline

September 21, 2016

LANSING – Access to qualified instructors is the biggest barrier to success for both high school and college Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced today, citing the results of an independent study.

This key finding by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) points up a challenge in the school-to-work pipeline that needs shoring up as the MDE proceeds with rolling out its comprehensive plan to become a Top 10 education state in 10 years.

“One of the goals in our Top 10 in 10 plan is to create a strong alignment and partnership with job providers, community colleges and higher education to ensure a prepared and quality workforce,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “It’s imperative that we know where the challenges are so we can strengthen them as part of the plan’s strategic objectives, and to help the plan’s implementation.”

That finding and several others are part of a $247,000 independent study by AIR – funded through a 2014-15 legislative appropriation of $250,000.

For its report, Study of Michigan’s Career and Technical Education and Career Readiness System, researchers reviewed state data on the administration, policies, and participating students within the state’s CTE system.

It also researched information on Michigan’s workforce composition, current and projected labor market status, and postsecondary educational attainment.

Additionally, AIR surveyed Michigan secondary and postsecondary CTE directors and a sample of Michigan employers to gather information on key skills needed in the workforce.

Relying on data collected from August 2015 to March 2016, AIR’s findings include:

  • In general, CTE student enrollment and the number of postsecondary degrees appear to be aligned with the needs of Michigan employers for occupational groups that require some postsecondary or on-the-job training and are projected to experience the highest growth through 2022.
  • CTE program offerings are influenced most by student interest at the high-school level and by labor market information at the postsecondary level. 
  • The skills most in demand by Michigan employers for entry-level positions included general employability skills including integrity, responsibility, self-discipline, a desire to learn, and professionalism. 
  • Nearly one-third of secondary and postsecondary directors reported difficulty obtaining materials or equipment to deliver programming, particularly state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, and equipment for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Transportation, and Health career programs.

The report provides several recommendations, including:

  • Provide guidance to stakeholders in the use of data
  • Establish sustainable funding for linking cross-sector data, and provide reporting tools for the linked data related to employment outcomes
  • Increase data management and analytic capacity across the state
  • Strengthen the instructor pipeline
  • Provide adequate career counseling support
  • Integrate work-based learning into all CTE programs
  • Incorporate Educational Development Plans (EDPs) into student-guidance systems
  • Develop mechanisms to share information about Michigan’s award-winning CTE programs
  • Offer more opportunities for students to develop general employability skills
  • Collect regular feedback from employers on evolving technical skills required for entry-level jobs

In 2015, MDE identified several occupational instructor critical-shortage disciplines, such as therapeutic services; cosmetology; hospitality; construction trade; automobile and collision repair technicians; welding, brazing, soldering; graphics and printing technology, and communications.

That year, Whiston implemented a pilot program that provides flexibility in work experience requirements to allow districts to hire CTE teachers in critical shortage areas.

Eleven individuals were approved in the first year of the two-year pilot. Instructional program areas where needs were varied, including drafting (3 applications), welding (3), construction (2), and single applications for graphics, avionics, automotive, horticulture, forensic science, and machine tool.  ISD’s requesting to participate in the pilot included Macomb (3 applications), St. Joseph County (3), Traverse Bay (2), Midland (2), and single applications from Kent, Oakland Schools, Bay Arenac, and Gogebic Ontonagon. 

In the 2016 school year, five additional individuals are participating in the pilot in the instructional areas of agriculture, education, health, engineering and radio/TV. Entities making the request include Wayne RESA (2 applicants), Calhoun ISD, Ottawa Area ISD and Monroe County ISD.

By expanding the number of years of recent experience from the current five years to 8 years, and using satisfactory teaching in CTE or as an academic instructor in lieu of work experience, these candidates were able to become authorized to teach CTE for one year. Candidates must be on intensive professional development, have a mentor teacher.