Connecting Secondary Career and Technical Education and Registered Apprenticeship: A Profile of Six State Systems
Career and technical education (CTE) programs and registered apprenticeship (RA) programs have many similarities: each is structured to include classroom-based instruction and work experiences, with technical training becoming progressively more advanced to prepare individuals for career entry. To help clarify the association between CTE and RA, NCICTE undertook a systematic review of the programmatic, administrative, and financial policies that six states—Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington—have developed to link the two programs. Researchers identified these states based on input from U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
Career and technical education programs support high school students in gaining the academic, technical, and employability skills necessary to pursue entry-level employment and to enroll in postsecondary education or advanced workforce training. Students typically begin to concentrate their CTE studies late in their junior or senior year, with some completing three or more courses in a specific program area. Instructional content begins with career exploration and becomes progressively more occupation directed as students specialize in their coursework. Some have the opportunity to participate in a work-based learning placement where they may learn and apply skills in an industry setting.
Registered apprenticeship programs provide individuals with advanced technical skills and the training needed to find employment in a specific occupation. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, working in conjunction with state apprenticeship agencies, is responsible for administering the system nationwide. Programs recognized by the Office of Apprenticeship must meet stringent guidelines that ensure that they are of high quality and conform to national industry standards. RA programs are sponsored by an employer, employer association, labor organization, or intermediary, such as a community-based organization or community college.
States profiled in this report are using a range of approaches to align secondary CTE with RA and are using differing terminology to describe their efforts. While programmatic components vary, states’ approaches generally fall into one of three categories:
High school students participate directly in RA programs and are registered as apprentices with the Office of Apprenticeship. Accommodations may be made for students’ age and ability to work in some industry settings, with CTE coursework applied toward RA requirements and RA participation applied toward high school graduation requirements (North Carolina).
High school students participate in programs designed to prepare them for an RA program, with related technical instruction provided as part of their CTE coursework. Students often participate in WBL placements with an RA sponsor and receive preferred and/or enhanced entry with credits earned toward RA program requirements (Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Washington).
High school students enroll in CTE coursework that the state has aligned to RA programs in high-demand industries. All enrolling students earn credits toward an RA program following high school completion (Rhode Island).
The states in this study have developed strategies to support educators and employers in creating effective programs that link CTE and apprenticeship. While these strategies, identified below, have yet to be rigorously studied to assess their efficacy, they may help inform states’ efforts to expand the pipeline into RA through the alignment of CTE and RA programs. In so doing, it may increase the career options of high school students.
Provide cross-agency support to align CTE and RA programs.
Deliver technical assistance at the regional and local levels.
Create resource tools and guides to support program alignment.
Conduct outreach to publicize the benefits of RA programs.
Address barriers to student and employer involvement.
Study findings suggest that states profiled in this report are using differing approaches to prepare high school students for RA participation. In some instances, such as in North Carolina, high school students participate directly in an RA program. In other cases, secondary CTE programs may be designed to feed into RA programs, for example, by structuring CTE as a pre-apprenticeship program that gives students course credits and workplace hours that may be applied toward meeting the requirements of an affiliated RA program, as well as an advantage in the application process. Within Rhode Island, it is the CTE curriculum, and not individual students, that is aligned with RA programs, enabling all CTE students taking the coursework to earn credits towards the aligned RA program. Read more about the differing approaches in the state profiles below.