In my application to become an ACTE Fellow I had to write an answer to what I thought to be the most pressing issues affecting Career and Technical Education. This is what I wrote…
The criterion requests a statement of issues affecting CTE at the LEA, state and national level. I suggest that there is one issue affecting all of these agencies which causes a stratification of affects. The issue is that the world is, in virtuality, becoming smaller and, therefore, more competitive. The speed at which ideas can be shared and spread around the world makes the proximity to resources and human capital less of a concern to industry and, along with the advent of digital automation which operates at the same speed, the need of unskilled labor is being diminished. We now live in a world where the sovereignty of nations is being threatened by this speed. So now, here in the U.S., we have established a national learning objective - No Child Left Behind, to ensure that our nation is not left behind. This has profoundly affected Career and Technical Education at the federal, state and local level.
At the federal level, CTE is affected by the perception that a skilled labor force is declining due to the low performance measures developed in response to NCLB. This is further complicated by the fact that ideas and processes that generate product are able to move around the nation and the world faster than any legislation that might impede them. Furthermore, our capitalist ideals supported by the United States government would not be thwarted in such a way to impede this sort of progress. The United States is fertile ground for capitalist ideas to be germinated within, but other countries are cheaper to produce within. This leaves the low-skilled American worker with little choice for employment, therefore increasing the need to learn skills that require advanced abilities in Math, Science and Literacy. The federal government wants to develop a skilled and motivated workforce that generates these novel processes and ideas but the instructional delivery system, nationwide, is archaic.
Motivated by federal mandates, the states are in motion to develop national standards that address the development of a skilled workforce in both academic and Career and Technical fields. Therefore, the states' sovereignty has been diminished. States' Career and Technical policies and procedures must be connected to the Carl D. Perkins act of 2006 in order to receive federal funding, which is substantial. Up until recently, the states had their own individual plans and methods to address Career and Technical Education but these plans each have their individual flaws where federal mandates are concerned. This has created the need and the monumental task of grouping standards together that all of the states may use as a guide towards the federal goals for Career and Technical Education. This is further complicated by the regional needs and resources that exist within the United States. These differences complicate matters and create dissension and disagreement among the states on how differing goals may be achieved and how federal funds should be allocated. Leadership is needed to bring all Career and Technical educators together to accomplish this task.
The LEA is the most affected agency because it is the furthest removed from the central issue. This may be because of long-held traditions for classes and schedules within the schools that no longer match the speed of the world and that local leaders are unwilling to relinquish. Or, it may be because the school lacks the infrastructure needed to be connected to the outside world at an efficient level. Thirdly, the amount of money available that is generated by local tax dollars falls short of the expectations set forth by federal and state standards or only meet the minimum. At last, the instructors in the schools have the same limitations and therefore are unable to offer up the instruction needed to develop a globally competitive worker.
Once schools and their Career and Technical programs have the same standards for curriculum, dollars and megabits, our nation will be able to move forward with a united vision to remain globally competitive in a smaller world.