Develop, Link, Foster and Encourage: This Article Is Part of a Yearlong Series That Will More Closely Examine the Recommendations Made in ACTE's Postsecondary Reform Position Statement "Expanding Opportunities: Postsecondary Career and Technical Education and Preparing Tomorrow's Workforce."

Article excerpt

THE THIRD RECOMMENDATION IN ACTE'S postsecondary reform position statement is to develop curriculum and instructional offerings that link to careers, foster lifelong learning, and encourage completion. Concrete linkages must be developed between middle and high school, postsecondary education and work, with lifelong postsecondary learning a part of this cycle.

For traditional-age students, opportunities to blend secondary and postsecondary teaching and learning--both academic and career and technical education (CTE) courses--will enable more students to move directly from high school to postsecondary education and training. For adults, it is vital to recognize that many learners need to complete postsecondary coursework quickly to obtain skills for the workplace. Intensive short-term credentials, with employer-recognized value and flexible delivery of integrated coursework, can lead to higher completion rates and better employment opportunities for postsecondary students.

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While postsecondary CTE has traditionally collaborated with employers to develop programs, ensuring that more students obtain credentials with labor market value requires deeper partnerships, regular communication, and open feedback loops throughout the postsecondary system. CTE, with its applied learning and academic and technical integration, is serving as the connection point between and across these sectors in many places throughout the country as states and institutions develop more seamless pathways to postsecondary education.

Creating Integrated Pathways

Central New Mexico Community College (CNMCC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has joined Jobs for the Future's "Breaking Through" initiative to develop more integrated institutional structures and services. "Breaking Through" is designed to strengthen postsecondary outcomes for low-income adults by focusing on strategies that create more effective pathways into and through pre-college and degree-level programs.

CNMCC is New Mexico's largest and most comprehensive community college, and the second largest postsecondary institution in the state. It is aligning its programs and services to create a pathway into high-demand construction trades for low-skilled adults. The "Breaking Through" Construction Apprenticeship Program, which began in 2006, provides accelerated and contextualized learning of basic skills and pathways to academic degree and certificate programs. It has strong connections with business and industry and prepares project participants to compete for construction apprenticeship programs.

According to Jane Bradley, interim executive director of CNMCC's Office of Educational Collaborations, the purpose of the initiative is to get individuals with a relatively low skill level into postsecondary education so that they can eventually earn a degree, and are able to enter the workforce and earn a family supporting wage. The target population has an eighth-grade skill level or below (many lacking even a GED), so intensive services must be provided.

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The unique program employs the elements of a streamlined curriculum, flexibility in delivery, strong industry links, program alignment and intensive support services to ensure student success. An advisory team made up of faculty from the School of Educational and Career Advancement and the School of Applied Technologies meets on a regular basis to monitor the program and make cross-department decisions about curriculum, textbooks, recruitment, scheduling, and dealing with a multitude of challenges.

Participants begin in a three-week accelerated reading and math skill-building class that works to correct skill deficiencies; it introduces students to careers in the construction trades such as plumbing, HVAC, carpentry and electricity. This course, and others in the program, is a joint effort between the two traditionally independent schools within the college. …