Your Feedback Wanted on Next Generation CTE Simulations

We want to hear your thoughts, and hope you will participate in this open call!

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will launch the EdSim Challenge, which will call upon the gaming, developer, and edtech communities to design simulated environments that prepare America’s students for a more competitive world through high-quality career and technical education.

On November 5th, OCTAE launched a call for public feedback to help inform the Challenge design. Public feedback will be accepted through December 6, 2015 regarding topics such as simulated learning subject areas, skill sets, and technical considerations.

Following the call for public feedback, ED will finalize the EdSim Challenge design. In Spring 2016, the EdSim Challenge will open for submissions, seeking engaging educational simulations that will help define the next generation of applied learning and pair immersive technologies with rigorous educational content and integrated assessment.

Simulated learning experiences, such as immersive gaming environments, virtual reality, and training simulations, represent an emerging class of instructional content delivery in education. Research indicates that simulation-based learning holds advantages for students in terms of information retention, engagement, skills training, and learning outcomes. We are excited to help move these technologies forward for the benefit of our nation’s students.

You can learn more about the Challenge and submit feedback at

New Project Explores Connections with Apprenticeships

OCTAE announces a new project to explore options for improving connections between secondary Career and Technical Education and Apprenticeships in conjunction with first National Apprenticeship Week. OCTAE is pleased to report the launch of our new initiative to promote youth engagement in this promising workforce development strategy. Given the benefits that apprenticeship confers to both trainees and employers, states are exploring ways to attract more people, including youth, to apprenticeship programs.

The OCTAE-sponsored initiative explores options for expanding the pipeline of apprentices. The project focuses on identifying promising strategies to improve programmatic alignment between secondary career and technical education (CTE) programs and the registered apprenticeship system. The project will support state and local leaders in replicating and scaling existing pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs, and will promote apprenticeships as a viable career path for students participating in CTE programs. The project is entitled “Potential Role of Secondary Career and Technical Education Programs in Preparing Students for Apprenticeship Programs.”

“Students participating in secondary CTE are among the most qualified for entry into apprenticeship programs, and OCTAE is pleased to do its share in helping to meet the President’s ambitious goal of doubling the number of apprentices within five years.”
— Dr. Johan Uvin, Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

Apprenticeship programs offer unique, mutually beneficial opportunities to apprentices and employers. Apprentices learn advanced, industry-vetted academic and technical skills that are offered as part of a paid, on-the-job work experience. Upon program completion, apprentices earn industry-recognized credentials that enable them to find immediate employment, with average starting wages above $50,000 annually. By being directly involved in training apprentices, employers ensure that they have access to the talent to meet their workforce needs, and be economically competitive.

OCTAE plans to release technical assistance materials and tools on our PCRN website that highlight promising practices and actionable strategies, and will likely include a resource guide, instructional videos, and webinars showcasing local program design strategies and tools.

New Resources for Teaching Transportation Career Pathways

On Thursday, November 12 from 3:15-4:30 pm ET, a webinar entitled “Innovative Teaching and Transportation Industry Partnerships” will feature teachers, administrators and industry partners and their insights and examples of innovative programs and teaching models to deliver transportation-related curricula for high school students. The webinar is hosted and co-sponsored by the Northeast Center of the National Network for the Transportation Workforce and the National Association of State Directors for Career Technical Education. You can register for the webinar here.

The Federal Highway Administration established a National Network for the Transportation Workforce that consists of five Regional Surface Transportation Workforce Centers. The Centers engage and facilitate partnerships with State Departments of Transportation, State Departments of Education, industry, and other public and private stakeholders to support more efficient approaches to transportation workforce development. The centers address the range of workforce development activities from middle and high-schools to technical schools and community colleges. The centers are also useful resources for universities, postgraduate programs, and transportation workers.

In addition, the Departments of Education, Transportation, and Labor have been working closely to project future employment, skills, skills gaps, and training needs within the transportation industry and its subsectors. The report, called “Strengthening Skills Training & Career Pathways Across the Transportation Industry,” is available on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.

Nominations Sought for Excellence in CTE Programs

Excellent Career and Technical Education Programs of Study deserve recognition. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) has announced its third annual Excellence in Action award, which recognizes and honors superior Career Technical Education (CTE) programs of study from around the nation. Applications are due December 9, 2015. The awards highlight high quality Career Cluster-based programs of study that have a meaningful impact on student achievement and success. Winners will receive national exposure and be recognized at an awards ceremony in Spring of 2016 in Washington, D.C. The awards provide an opportunity to highlight exemplary CTE programs of study.

Winning programs will be selected by a panel of State CTE Directors and past award recipients. Previous award winners were recognized at the Celebrating Innovations in Career and Technical Education event that was held at the White House.

NASDCTEc will be showcasing past winners in a webinar entitled, ‘Insights into the Excellence in Action Award’ on November 10, 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET. You can register for the webinar here.

You can find more information about the application process for the Excellence in Action award by visiting the NASDCTEc website,

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

First Lady Michelle Obama Launches CTE App Challenge

In effort to inspire students to pursue an education beyond high school, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launched the Reach Higher Career App Challenge to promote the development of mobile apps that will help students navigate education and career pathways, including career and technical education (CTE).

You can read the full press release here.

“If students want to learn cutting-edge skills and prepare for successful careers, a four-year university isn’t their only choice. CTE is also an excellent option because students can get all the professional skills they need for a good job in a high-demand field, and they can do it at a fraction of the time and cost of a four-year school,” said First Lady Michelle Obama.

The First Lady released a video message announcing the launch and call to action.

OCTAE is eager to see the innovative solutions that our nation of solvers will bring to the challenge. The submissions period was opened on October 7, 2015 and closes on December 7. The challenge enables developers, educators and data mavens to compete for a share of the $225,000 cash prize pool.

You can find all the information about the Reach Higher Career App Challenge on and enter the challenge at

You can also view the complete Federal Register Notice here.

Reach Higher Career App Challenge Launches Today

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education is excited to launch the App Challenge in collaboration with the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative.

We are eager to see the innovative solutions that developers, educators, and anyone interested in helping students map their futures, submit to the challenge and compete for a share of the $225,000 prize pool.
You can find all the information about the Reach Higher Career App Challenge on and enter the challenge at

You can also view the complete Federal Register Notice here.

Connecting Highest Degree Earned to Cognitive Skills

The following is the introduction to a post that appears on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog

Categories of educational attainment – or highest degree earned – are often used in social science research as an indicator of a person’s knowledge and skills. This measure is objective and readily available, easily understood by survey respondents as well as by consumers of research and survey data, strongly tied to policies (such as those promoting high school graduation and college completion rates), and widely used in the labor market by employers. Moreover, strong connections between educational attainment and positive life outcomes, such as employment, earnings, health, and civic engagement, are well established.

The article compares the direct measures of cognitive skills with the highest level of educational attainment as reported in the 2012 Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey. You can read the full story on the National Center for Education Statistics Blog.

Posted by
Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Manufacturing Day Gains Momentum

Manufacturers across the country are opening their doors on October 2nd, to welcome students, teachers, parents, and neighbors to provide a better understanding of the manufacturing that is thriving in their local communities. Visit the MFG Day website to find events in your area and post your own event.

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Strengthening Transportation Career Pathways

The article is cross-posted on the Department of Transportation Fast Lane Blog

The U.S. Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor kicked off the week with some good news today, releasing a joint report, “Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry.”

The new report details future employment hot spots in transportation by industry subsectors, occupations, career areas, and geographic areas. It also identifies good-paying, high-demand transportation jobs and analyzes patterns in the education and work experience required for entry –as well as on-the-job training requirements to help new entrants gain greater competency.

The report concludes that there will be more job opportunities in the near future due to expected growth, retirements, and turnover in the transportation industry. Each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation provides over $51 billion in surface transportation construction funding to build and maintain our Nation’s highways, bridges, and public transportation systems. For every $1 billion in transportation infrastructure investments, 13,000 jobs are projected to be created over the next decade.

But those opportunities won’t fill themselves. Employers will need to hire and train a total of 4.6 million new workers; that’s 1.2 times the current transportation workforce. As U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said, “Industry and government must increase recruitment and help young people get the skills, training, and apprenticeships they need to gain entry into these careers.”

Recruiting and training new and current workers responsible for the operation, maintenance, and construction of America’s transportation infrastructure will be critical to maintaining a system that meets the economic and security needs of a growing American population.

“Ensuring that America continues to lead the way in the global economy means not only investing in the physical infrastructure that allows us to move goods and keep up with global demand, but also the skills infrastructure to support this growing workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Through smart investments in apprenticeships and other work-based training programs, transportation jobs are helping millions of Americans punch their tickets to the middle class.”

While demand for transportation workers will vary by region, subsector, and occupation, these workforce changes will result in increased job opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled workers across the transportation sector.

“In today’s society, it is important that all of our students are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to compete in a global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “There are incredible opportunities for Americans in the transportation industry and the Department is fully committed to working with leaders in the industry to promote partnerships between education and workforce institutions in order to support training programs that will help our country succeed.”

OCTAE presents at the Automotive Instructor Training Conference

As an automotive technology instructor, how did you spend your time outside of the classroom this summer? Over 275 instructors received intensive professional development during the 2nd annual Instructor Training Conference provided by The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Industry Education Alliance.

Chuck Roberts, Justin Morgan, and Trish Serratore standing with an ASE backdrop

Chuck Roberts, VP NATEF/AYES, Justin Morgan, Instructor at Sinclair Community College and Trish Serratore, NATEF/AYES President

The ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference offered not only numerous technical training sessions from manufacturers involved in all aspects of the automotive industry, but also education development sessions focusing on the teaching and learning process.

These instructors understand the importance of high academic standards and strong technical skills needed by students enrolled in their NATEF-accredited programs. They also understand, first hand, the shortage of qualified teachers entering the education profession, specifically, in career and technical education areas.

In conversations with the attendees, I observed one of the most valued aspects conferences can provide. That is, the value of informal mentoring that occurs between experienced teachers and beginning teachers.

Photo of man examining an engine belt in the audience of a learning session

Joe Gravino, Teacher at Passaic County Technical Institute, examines an engine belt during the annual conference. Kris Killam, left and Jennifer Andronas, right are seated behind Gravino

With business partners of ASE, ATech, Bosch, Bridgestone, Carquest, CDX, Cengage, Garage Gurus, Gates, Lexus, Navistar, Nissan, Snap On, Subaru, and Toyota, these automotive technology teachers and administrators are committed that their programs maintain accreditation in this fast-changing technological industry.

Plans are being made for the 2016 ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference in Concord, North Carolina, and I hope to see you there.

The ASE Industry Education Alliance is a group of organizations under the ASE umbrella providing a career resource from entry-level to retirement for automotive industry personnel and serves as a model for other industries. The ASE Industry Education Alliance consists of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), and the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC).

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Robin Utz serves as the chief for the College and Career Transitions branch in the Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) for Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the US Department of Education.