Enter the $680K EdSim Challenge by January 17

Graphic with text that reads: EdSim Challenge, Calling for next generation education simulations. $680,000 in cash awards plus additional sponsor prizes. Learn more at edsimchallenge.,comThe EdSim Challenge submission deadline is quickly approaching with less than a month left! All simulation concepts must be submitted by 4:59:59 PM EST on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, on the Luminary Lightbox platform.

The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century. Successful simulations will pair the engagement of commercial games with rigorous educational content that strengthens academic, technical, and employability skills.

Following close of submissions, the judging panel will select up to five finalists to receive $50,000 each and advance to the Virtual Accelerator. During the Virtual Accelerator, each team will work with expert mentors as they refine their concept and build a simulation prototype.

We look forward to your ideas for expanding virtual and augmented reality in education!

Be sure to watch the EdSim Informational Webinar:

and the launch message:

If you have questions about your EdSim Challenge submission, please visit the EdSim Challenge website or email us at hello@edsimchallenge.com.

A First Job Can Change a Life

Photo of Secretary King seated to the right of panelists at the #FirstJob Compact summit

Secretary King moderates a panel at the #FirstJob Compact summit

“During my time with young people… I was able to teach them skills and, hopefully, show them that their contributions – their skills, their experiences, their imaginations – are valuable. A sense of possibility can make all the difference for an individual and for a community,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary John King at the First Job Compact Implementation Convening.

Yesterday, Secretary King provided opening remarks and facilitated a panel with youth and employers at the First Job Compact Implementation Convening. This is the second convening of its kind that seeks to establish best practices and strategies for enabling Opportunity Youth— youth ages 16-24 who are out-of-work and out-of-school—to obtain their first job. Over 100 human resources and talent leaders, as well as non-profits and agency colleagues, gathered to discuss these strategies and how to make them part of their company’s business plan.

Secretary King also announced that the U.S. Department of Education(ED), in consultation with the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, intends to provide technical assistance funding to help public housing authorities connect youth who have aged out of the foster care system with high quality career and technical education programs. Through this investment, ED hopes to assist career and technical education programs to better meet the needs of current and former foster youth. The project also seeks to improve coordination among the child welfare system and other federal programs.

About one in seven young people between the ages of 16-24 are either not in school or not working. These individuals are known as Opportunity Youth. The unemployment rate for individuals 16-24 sits at 11 percent and is even higher among African-American and Latino youth (22 percent and 12 percent respectively). Early in the Obama Administration, the White House convened corporations to encourage companies to create pathways for Opportunity Youth to gain their first job. Additionally, in President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address, he announced the importance of creating an economy that works better for everybody, including a plan for Opportunity Youth to gain the work experience, skills, and networks that come from having a job. This effort will not only change the lives of youth and communities across the country, but it will also create and build a sustainable and resilient workforce.

Yesterday’s convening included companies such as Gap and Chipotle, who signed on to the First Job Compact. Through a series of engaging panels, corporations share best practices needed to move this work forward. These companies understand that the Compact’s objectives are mutually beneficial to their companies and the youth it serves. Companies often report that young people struggle to find jobs because they lack basic workplace skills and behaviors. By committing to a set of best practices to hire and support these youth, companies will be able to identify and leverage the vital skills and backgrounds these youth bring to the job and in turn increase their interview to hire ratio, retention rate, speed to promotion, and engagement scores to meet company goals. For almost a decade, Gap has engaged in This Way Ahead, which is a paid life skills and internship program that helps low-income youth land a first job at our Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic stores.

Through strong collaboration, industry and government will remain committed to reconnecting Opportunity Youth to education and workforce opportunities. Recently, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report “Work-based Learning for Youth at Risk: Getting Employers on Board” which aims to tackle the common challenge to growing youth job training by establishing the idea that employers first need to see work-based learning as a way to help their business. Read more about this report and further analysis in this blog by New America.

It is clear this this issue has already stirred national interest. President Obama recently released a fact sheet on innovative ways to fund the First Job initiative. In conjunction with ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), the Administration has engaged in a #FirstJob Skills Campaign which seeks to leverage social media and celebrities to connect youth to educational resources to help improve their employability skills. As a part of these efforts, OCTAE released a fact sheet entitled Employability Skills: Supporting Opportunity Youth to Be Successful in Their First Job. This administration firmly believes that these efforts will strengthen our workforce, grow our economy, and change lives.

Work-Based Learning: A Promising Strategy for Re-engaging Opportunity Youth

For nearly a decade, the U. S. has partnered with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to conduct reviews of various issues pertaining to career and technical education (CTE). Our efforts with OECD have enabled us to benchmark ourselves against other countries, as well as learn about international policies and practices that we might consider to improve the educational and employment outcomes for our nation’s youth and adults.

Building on our prior work, in July 2015, we again partnered with OECD—this time, on the topic of work-based learning. We were interested in this topic because we acknowledge the importance and promise of work-based learning as a way to re-engage youth, equip them with the skills that are in demand in the labor market, and connect them to potential employers.

The benefits of work-based learning are particularly important for at-risk youth as these individuals are most likely to face difficulties in connecting to the labor market and accessing good learning opportunities. At-risk youth are defined as young people who are not—or are at risk of not—working or being in school. In the U. S., there are roughly 5.5 million teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. This translates to one in seven teens and young adults. In OECD countries, there are around 40 million at risk youth. These numbers, while incredibly discouraging, present a tremendous opportunity for retooling our nation’s CTE programs and scaling up promising practices such as work-based learning to address the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable students.

OECD’s work-based learning project was designed for three purposes:

  1. Synthesize the evidence on how the benefits of work-based learning might be more fully exploited to achieve better economic and social outcomes;
  2. Document global experience of developments and innovations in policy and practice; and
  3. Deliver key policy messages on those foundations.

Eight other countries participated in the study—Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

On December 7, 2016, the OECD reported the results of their U. S. review, as documented in Work-Based Learning for Youth at Risk: Getting Employers on Board. The report identifies a number of policy recommendations including encouraging and offering financial resources for pre-apprenticeships; providing remediation, mentoring, and coaching to support apprentices complete their training; and offering targeted training for apprenticeship supervisors to help them succeed. The full report can be found in the OECD iLibrary.

To further help employers work with youth, the Department released Employability Skills Fact Sheet and Resources: Supporting Opportunity Youth to Be Successful in Their First Job. This fact sheet outlines five easy steps that employers can take to help youth gain employability skills that employers are looking for and that are necessary for youth to be successful in the labor market at all levels and in all sectors. The Fact Sheet is available on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.

Posted by
Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education

Expanding Computer Science Education with Career and Technical Education

csedweek_forwebGiven the tremendous career opportunities that a foundation in computer science can provide, it makes sense that we do what we can to improve access to high-quality computer science learning experiences for all students. Computer science (CS) is not about understanding how to use a word processor or create a spreadsheet. CS is about gaining computational thinking skills and is a critical skill set that all students should have in the 21st century workforce—and states, districts, schools, educators, and their partners are doing their part to expand opportunities to computer science for all.

Career and Technical Education (CTE), funded by the Carl D. Perkins CTE Improvement Act of 2006 (Perkins), is an effective approach for increasing access to rigorous computer science coursework as well as for integrating computer science into existing programs of study. Many states are working creatively and innovatively to utilize CTE pathways and Perkins funds to increase access to and completion of computer science courses. From using funds to increase interest in middle school and supporting educator preparation, to dual-coding of courses and increasing access to equipment, states are working hard to maximize the use of Perkins funds to help prepare more students in their states for career opportunities.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind to help increase access to high-quality CS for All.

  • Dual-coding of Courses – Computer science courses are being offered in both CTE and non-CTE academic programs with course codes that inhibit courses from being used in multiple programs. Some states have found it helpful to dual-code these courses to strengthen their offerings, eliminate duplication of efforts and reduce the funds needed to implement computer science programs in a high school. For example, in Florida , computer science standards were jointly written to make sure that the standards met both academic and CTE expectations.
  • Dual-certification of Teachers – Having a well-prepared, well-supported educator workforce is critical to expanding access to computer science courses. Again, to prevent duplication of effort, states have found it helpful to ensure that computer science educators in high schools are able to teach computer science as part of either a CTE or academic program. These options increase the number of educators available to teach computer science while providing flexibility for how computer science is taught in both CTE and academic pathways.
  • Professional Development for Teachers – Perkins funds can be used to provide professional development for CTE educators to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to teach computer science. Because computer science educator preparation requires high-quality, intensive professional development for existing educators, states are also thinking creatively about how to use Perkins in conjunction with Title II funds to increase the number of educators who are able to teach computer science in both CTE and academic pathways.
  • End-of-Pathway Assessments – States are thinking creatively about end-of-pathway assessments for CTE students and how to ensure the demonstration of technical proficiency. States like Maryland and Idaho are utilizing satisfactory scores on the AP computer science exams as a demonstration of technical proficiency.

Perkins funding can be used to complement and strengthen computer science education in a variety of creative ways, such as collaborating with middle schools to increase CS career exploration courses in 7th and 8th grade, and making CTE CS courses students available to students who are not in a CTE program of study.

OCTAE and the U.S. Department of Education joined several federal agencies in celebrating CS Education Week, December 5-11, 2016, during which a Year of Action was announced. It continues the momentum of CSforAll following its launch in January 2016 that brought together federal, state, and local efforts to increase access to CS education. That same day in January, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, provided more insight into the importance of providing CS for All in her blog.

OSTP Senior Policy Advisor for Tech Inclusion, Ruthe Farmer, also provided a year-in-review recapping 2016 CS education milestones.

Follow #CSforAll on your favorite social media for ongoing activities.

EdSim Challenge Judges Announced

Graphic with text that reads: EdSim Challenge, Calling for next generation education simulations. $680,000 in cash awards plus additional sponsor prizes. Learn more at edsimchallenge.,comOCTAE is pleased to introduce the expert panel of judges for the EdSim Challenge! They bring a wealth of expertise in education, simulations, industry training, emerging technology, and venture capital to the Challenge, and share a passion for transforming teaching and learning experiences through virtual and augmented reality.

Join us in acknowledging the time, effort, and incredible array of talents the judges are contributing to the energy of the EdSim Challenge.

    Meet the EdSim Challenge judges:

  • Elizabeth Baron, Virtual Reality & Advanced Visualization Technical Specialist, Ford Motor Company
  • Nonny de la Peña, CEO and Founder, Emblematic Group
  • Marlon Evans, CEO, GSVlabs
  • Steve Isaacs, Video Game Design and Development Teacher, William Annin Middle School
  • Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code
  • Kurt Squire, Co-Director, Games+Learning+Society Center, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery
  • Kiki Wolfkill, Halo Transmedia & Entertainment Studio Head, Microsoft’s 343 Industries

You can read about the judges and find more information about the Challenge at EdSimChallenge.com.

As a reminder, the EdSim Challenge is accepting submissions for simulation concepts through January 17, 2017 at 4:59:59 PM EST.

You can also sign up to receive Challenge updates here and see quick overview in the video below.

Embedding a Continuum of Work-Based Learning Opportunities in Our High Schools

photo of Johan Uvin

Posted by
Johan E. Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to join the Second Annual White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools. Leading practitioners and researchers came together to discuss how to rethink the high school experience. The event built on the progress made at last year’s summit, which generated $375 million in private and public sector commitments. After researchers shared their findings on what works, and district leaders and students talked about their Next Gen High Schools, participants engaged in action planning sessions focused on key strategies and elements of these innovative schools. I participated in a team that focused on personalized, project-based and maker learning. We talked about internships as an essential element of any future high school experience we envision for our youth and came up with specific actions we agreed to take to make more internships available to our high school students. At the end of our session, we were asked to make a commitment. I pledged to conduct research on promising practices and identify a few examples of internship programs that illustrate clearly what we want. Our team completed its initial research. I am happy to share two great examples with you through this blog.

One great example of a Next Generation High School that makes internships a focal point of the student experience is the Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) at Apex High School in Wake County, North Carolina, a small school-within-a-school program that attracts students who have an interest in information technology. AOIT is organized around two pathways: programming and web development. Not all students who opt to enroll in AOIT are interested in future careers in computer programming or technology. One student who attended in the past year is interested in being an elementary school teacher and has been learning how to develop “apps” that could be used in the classroom. Another student intends to work in human services, such as at a domestic violence program, and has completed an internship in a medical facility learning how to create digital patient records.

All AOIT students are required to complete a paid 135-hour internship prior to their senior year. Most complete their internships in the summer between the junior and senior year of school at a variety of businesses in the Research Triangle such as SAS Institute, Verizon, EMC Corporation, and the Town of Cary, NC Information Technology Department. At least half of the hands-on experience must be technology-based. AOIT internships are different from a typical summer job because students are required to participate in variety of activities that help link what they learned in the classroom to what they experience at the work site. To help connect their internship to their academic learning, student interns are asked to create a Linked-in presence and contribute to an AOIT blog in which they share information about their internship experiences. A supervisor at the job site does an evaluation of the student. AOIT staff visit the workplace to review and discuss learning objectives with the student and the supervisor. When the students have completed their internships, they also are required to do a presentation about their internship experience at a special evening event.

Most AOIT students go on to postsecondary education. Many students credit their internship experiences with helping them understand critical elements of what they want to do in the future. On one hand, they might learn more about the possible requirements and challenges of their chosen field; on the other hand, they might discover that there is not a good match between what is required on the job and how they envision their future workselves – a potential computer programmer might learn that they would rather be part of a team rather than working alone on a problem. Their internship experiences help them to learn what they like, as well as what they do not like. Knowing this can help them make better postsecondary decisions.

Hartford Public Schools in Hartford, Connecticut is implementing internships at scale—paid internships are being implemented district-wide. Students who want a more focused education, different from a traditional comprehensive high school experience, can choose from among five career academies: the Journalism and Media Academy; Hartford High, Inc.; Pathways Academy of Technology; the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School; and the Nursing Academy at Hartford Public High School. In coordination with the Capitol Workforce Partners, the local workforce development board, Hartford Public Schools places academy students in paid internships that are aligned with their academy theme. Some of these internships begin in the summer between their junior and senior year. Most of the internships continue in their senior year. Interns are placed in a variety of local businesses, community organizations, and non-profit organizations. For example, some Journalism and Media Academy students complete internships at the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, while students in the Engineering and Green Technology Academy have opportunities to work at Northeastern Utilities.

These internship models show how we can meaningfully connect academic learning with the workplace. But, internships are not the only work-based learning opportunities we can consider. There are many work-based learning activities along the continuum of career awareness and exploration, career preparation, and career training and application that we can consider leading up to paid internships including: guest speakers, tours of workplaces, job and career fairs, shadowing/observation and mock interview opportunities, project-based learning based on real workplace problems, community service learning, mentoring programs, just to name a few. Trailblazing Next Gen High School leaders put these activities in a sequence of opportunities that allow students to deepen their understanding of the world of work over time. When students have the opportunity to combine these practical work-related experiences with classroom instruction, they are better able to see the relevance of their education. Our goal should be to make these opportunities available to every student, preferably as part of a well-coordinated, increasingly hands-on sequence of learning experiences.

#ApprenticeshipWorks for High School

This article also appears on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Photo of Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu gathered with students around a student sitting at a desk with a laptop opened.

Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu hears from students at Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School in Washington, D.C. This unique public high school offers both college preparatory and vocational education dedicated to design professions and construction trades.

By offering pathways to career-ready skills, a paycheck and debt-free college credit, registered apprenticeship is the gold standard of work-based learning.

This program brings many high school students a future they never imagined. Bobby didn’t think he had many options after graduating from high school in rural Kentucky. Apprenticeship changed his life forever. During Bobby’s junior year of high school, he entered an apprenticeship program in advanced manufacturing with an employer in his hometown. After graduating, Bobby earned 30 college credits paid by the employer and completed over 1,700 hours of on-the-job training. Now, he works full time for the same company and is set to earn more money than his parents ever dreamed of for their family.

Employers see apprenticeship as a powerful tool for finding and developing talent. Parents and students see the value in a structured, earn-and-learn postsecondary pathway. Academic leaders see apprenticeship as a clear strategy for ensuring their high school and college graduates have the skills and competencies they need for tomorrow’s jobs.

While the average U.S. apprentice is 30 years old, other countries target younger workers. In countries like Germany, Switzerland and the UK, apprenticeships bridge the education system and the world of work, introducing high school students to jobs in a variety of industries. This European model enables students to connect to employment opportunities and access postsecondary education at an earlier age.

Successful registered apprenticeship programs across the country are connecting students to careers in critical, high-paying, in-demand industries such as IT, health care, and advanced manufacturing.

  • In North Carolina, the NCWorks Youth Apprenticeship program offers high school students opportunities to earn credit for secondary Career and Technical Education coursework, college credits, and on-the-job training with a registered apprenticeship sponsor. After graduation, students complete their apprenticeship along with their associate degree, which is paid by the employer. Siemens and Ameritech are part of a consortium of employers that work with local high schools and Central Piedmont Community College on this workforce pipeline.
  • In Wisconsin, the Youth Apprenticeship program, the oldest in the country, requires students to complete two years of 450 work hours per year and four semesters of related classroom instruction. Students work in advanced manufacturing with employers such as Harley Davidson and LDI Industries.
  • In South Carolina, Apprenticeship Carolina has over 100 youth apprenticeship programs sponsored by different employers such as Agape Healthcare, IFA-Rotorion (advanced manufacturing) and Hull Hospitality Group (culinary arts). Students earn their registered apprenticeship certificate before or after high school graduation.
  • The Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK) youth pre-apprenticeship program is a business- and industry-driven program designed to create a pipeline for high school students to enter postsecondary apprenticeship training in manufacturing, welding, electrical work and carpentry. Employers are able to tailor the program for their specific needs and to select the career and technical education courses and students for their apprenticeship pathway. Students receive a nationally recognized credential at little or no cost.

As high schools and community colleges look for innovative ways to ensure students graduate with career-ready skills, registered apprenticeship is a ready-made solution. More employers can join this movement by partnering with local high schools. Interested in finding out how you can bring youth apprenticeship to your state? Check out the Office of Apprenticeship’s website for more resources and talk to your Office of Apprenticeship state director and CTE state director.

Editor’s note: Join the conversation about how #ApprenticeshipWorks during National Apprenticeship Week 2016 by using the hashtag on social media.

Eric Seleznow is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training. Kim R. Ford is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education for Career, Technical and Adult Education.

Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary, OCTAE
Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor

EdSim Challenge Launched to Bring Virtual Reality to CTE

OCTAE is excited to launch the EdSim Challenge with a cash prize pool of $680,000 and additional sponsor prizes from IBM, Microsoft, Oculus, and Samsung. The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century.

Successful simulations will pair the engagement of commercial games with rigorous educational content that strengthens academic, technical, and employability skills.


Simulated environments, such as virtual and augmented reality, 3D simulations, and multiplayer video games, are emerging approaches to deliver educational content. Research indicates that simulation-based learning provides students with enriched experiences in information retention, engagement, skills acquisition, and learning outcomes.

Those interested in entering the Challenge should submit their simulation concepts at edsimchallenge.com by January 17, 2017.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our informational webinar on November 16, 2016 from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST to hear an overview of the Challenge and ask questions.

You can also view the complete Federal Register Notice here.

We look forward to seeing what innovators from around the country envision for the future of learning!

Opportunity Across America Back-to-School Bus Tour

Join OCTAE this week as we hit the road for the Opportunity Across America Tour—the final back-to-school bus tour of the Obama Administration.

School bus with overlaid map of bus tour route DC to New Orleans.

2016 Opportunity Bus Tour

The tour kicks off in Washington, DC and continues across six states to highlight and celebrate the progress that we’ve made as a nation in education over the past seven years.

From rural towns to big cities, educators, schools, families, and communities share a belief that a quality education can expand opportunity and ensure our nation’s fundamental promise: that with hard work and determination, each of us can fulfill our great potential.

Working together, we can ensure that all students have access to an education that helps them achieve their dreams; that all students encounter school as a safe, nurturing, and joyful place to learn and grow; and that teachers are supported and lifted up in the vital work they do each day. Together, we can give every student and family the opportunity to succeed.

That’s what the Opportunity Across America Tour is all about. We hope you’ll follow along the journey and visit the OCTAE blog everyday to read about the programs, students and communities we meet throughout the week.

Join @usedgov on the tour and tell us what opportunity means to you by tagging your Tweet and Facebook post with #OpportunityTour

Monday – Capital City Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.

Today, on the first day of the 2016 Bus Tour: 8 Years of Expanding Opportunity Across America, Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin visited Capital City Public Charter School to emphasize the Administration’s commitment to Computer Science for All and recognize the significant accomplishments of Capital City, its faculty, and its students. Capital City is an outstanding example of a school committed to the Administration’s efforts to ensure that all students reap the fruits of the new technologies and hands-on learning that are transforming public education.

Photo of Johan Uvin with two students and a school staff member in school hallway.

Johan Uvin and OCTAE staff are led on a tour by students of the Capital City Public Charter School.

Capital City Public Charter School continues to demonstrate the ability to educate its students at a high level of success. Since its first graduating class in 2012, 100 percent of Capital City’s graduating seniors have been accepted to college! Of these graduates, seven were POSSE scholars, two were Trachtenberg Scholars, and one was a Milken Scholar.

Capital City was one of ten CTE Makeover Challenge winners in 2016, earning a $20,000 cash prize and almost $35,000 in equipment and software to help Capital City continue to provide high-quality, robust career and technical education experiences through “making” and computer science and enable students to succeed in the twenty-first century.

We were led by students on a tour of the winning makerspace and Johan Uvin led a roundtable discussion with students and faculty who shared their vision for “making” as well as work-based learning experiences with local public and private partnerships.

Photo of Johan Uvin seated in the cneter with two female students seated on either side of him.

Johan Uvin is flanked by two students of Capital City Public Charter School during the roundtable session.

These are just some of the accomplishments that led First Lady Michelle Obama to say: “Every young person in this country should have a team of teachers, counselors, and school leaders pushing them and supporting them like you [students] all have here at Capital City” during her visit in 2014.

Tuesday – West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Paducah, Kentucky

photo of Kim Ford sitting across a work table from a student

Students demonstrate their projects to Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford during her visit to WKCTC.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim R. Ford visited the state of Kentucky beginning the day at West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) in Paducah, Kentucky where she toured the Allied Health and the Emerging Technology buildings, while professors and students shared their experiences at WKCTC. Students talked about the integral role career coaches play in their academic success. The coaches support students with mandatory college paperwork, establishing educational and career goals, and other requests. It is this type of mentorship that helps sustain WKCTC’s 48 percent graduation/transfer rate, a rate eight points higher than the national average.

The visit ended with a roundtable discussion on college affordability efforts, student support systems on and off campus, innovation in postsecondary education, and strategic work-based learning partnerships in the community. Reflecting on the visit Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford said, “The level of innovation at WKCTC and the overall excitement from students and staff were very impressive. This was an incredibly exciting and informative visit.”

Photo of Student using an automobile body part to describe his skills to Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Ford, standing to his right.

Student Jason McGregory describes his skills to Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Ford.

The day continued with a visit to Graves County Restricted Custody Center (GCRCC) in Mayfield, KY, a male correctional facility where the adult correctional education classes and the Skilled Craft Training Center is administered by WKCTC. Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford got an inside look at GCRCC and its unique commitment to ensure that all incarcerated individuals hold a basic education. If individuals come to GCRCC without a high school diploma, GCRCC requires them to work towards their General Education Development (GED) certificate during their time there. Additionally, the program leverages technology and the Internet to advance student outcomes in adult basic education and English as a second language and increase the employability of incarcerated individuals when they reintegrate into society.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford heard from students on how the classes at GCRCC are helping them prepare for their future by exploring ideas and increasing their competencies in new technology. More than 10 community leaders joined the tour and expressed their view of adult correctional education programs as a larger effort to assist incarcerated individuals develop the skills needed for reintegration into society, not just as residents, but as leaders equipped to succeed. “It is great to see incarcerated individuals be given the opportunity to not only gain their GED, but also remain connected with technology while having the potential of their future contributions to our communities and their families be recognized by instructors and correctional facility staff,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Ford.

Local television station WPSD featured the visit in their evening newscast. You can view their story here.

Thursday – Eastside Promise Neighborhood, San Antonio, Texas

Acting Assistant Secretary, Johan Uvin, and Chief of Staff, Carmen Drummond, visited the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN) in San Antonio, Texas, a 2011 recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods five year implementation grant. The vision of the program is that all children and youth growing up in Promise Neighborhoods have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career.

Photo of students gather around Johan Uvin, seated, demonstrating their enginieering project.

Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin watches as Bowden Elementary School 5th grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students work on a knee brace. The students were from left, Sariya Jackson, Jade Cavazos, Jade White, and Cithaly Cerna.

The EPN’s school and community-based programs led by United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County are helping to reinforce the idea that children do well when their parents do well. Specifically, their Dual Generation Program offers families and parents access to job-readiness programs, support to further their education and family literacy workshops. Additionally, EPN supports San Antonio Independent School District initiatives that aim to increase STEM instruction in the six EPN schools. During the visit Assistant Secretary Uvin visited classrooms implementing STEM curriculum where students talked about their projects and the fun they have learning engineering.
Photo of Johan Uvin being led on a tour of the facility.

Director of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood Tony Leverett, left, gives a tour of the Ella Austin Child Care Center to Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin

The visit included an insightful round table discussion with EPN partners and San Antonio stakeholders. The group discussed the achievements seen at the EPN schools by creating cradle-to-career solutions of both educational programs and family and community supports, and how to maintain this momentum far into the future. Assistant Secretary Uvin congratulated the EPN and community partners by saying, “It is wonderful to learn about the great collaboration San Antonio has achieved with the mayor’s office, the school system and local philanthropic organizations. I look forward to seeing these partnerships sustain the great programming at EPN schools.”

After the EPN visit, Assistant Secretary Uvin met with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and toured the Health Magnet Program at Fox Tech High School. Fox Tech students talked about the projects and work-based learning opportunities offered by the magnet program. Assistant Secretary Uvin also participated in a roundtable conversation with the Chamber and other community partners where he learned how the Chamber is integrating a friendly business climate through work-based learning models for students, teacher pipeline structures for future educators, and career navigating programs for the community.

The visit was featured in the San Antonio Express-News and a television newscast.

Friday – Performance Partnership Pilot, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Photo of Johan Uvin standing at podium speaking to a group of students and staff

Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin shares remarks with students and staff of the Greenville Superintendent’s Academy

On the last day of the #OpportunityTour, Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin and Deputy Under Secretary Kim Hunter Reed visited Greenville Superintendent’s Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to highlight the Administration’s commitment to make significant improvements for disconnected youth in educational, employment, and other key outcomes. The Baton Rouge Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) for Disconnected Youth program is a collaborative effort between the city and school district that focuses on disconnected youth ages 14-24 by offering catered programming at two schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS).

During the visit, Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin and Deputy Under Secretary Reed engaged students in a dialogue during a roundtable discussion about the services that the P3 program will provide and how it will address the needs of youth living in Baton Rouge. Students talked about their dreams and aspirations, but also about the obstacles to success they had to overcome. Other important issues discussed were the impact of the flooding, the recent unrest over racial issues and challenges with law enforcement, and the need to find solutions to end the gun violence and killings. Students made several suggestions to the Mayor and Superintendent to improve their schools and community.

The day ended with a community partnership roundtable where Deputy Under Secretary Reed led a broader discussion on current issues in her hometown of Baton Rouge, including many of the concerns the students raised. Ms. Gail Grover from the Mayor’s Office and Student Ambassador Benjamin Jenkins helped facilitate the discussions during the student and community roundtables.

Reflecting on the visit Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin said, “The students care so deeply about their community and called on all adults in the room to help find solutions to end violence in the community and expand education opportunities.” The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, has formed a group to share information and coordinate a response to issues related to the Louisiana flooding.

Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, New Hampshire

Also on Friday, Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim R. Ford and Senior Policy Advisor David Soo visited College for America at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), a leader in competency based education, distance learning, and employer engagement.

SNHU is also one of 44 institutions selected by the Department for the Federal Student Aid Dual Enrollment Pell Experiment. This three-year experiment will allow students taking college-credit courses to access Federal Pell Grants as early as high school. These programs can improve academic outcomes, lower costs and increase access to colleges and universities, especially for low-income students. Through the experiment, SNHU will offer its competency-based Associate of Arts in General Studies and will partner with several high schools.
 

Research consistently has shown that individuals with college degrees are more likely to live healthier lives, be more civically engaged in their communities, have good-paying jobs, and experience greater job security. SNHU and College for America are helping make more Americans enter and complete college by offering a wide range of degrees at an affordable price.

During the visit, Deputy Assistant Ford toured the traditional campus, which serves 3,000 students, and their online center serving 70,000 students across the country. College for America collaborates with over 100 businesses, nonprofits and governments to offer accredited associate and bachelor degrees that students earn online by mastering competencies through real-world projects.

Photo of tables arranged in a square with staff seated around the table

Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim R. Ford and Senior Policy Advisor David Soo held a roundtable discussion on the College for America at Southern New Hampshire University

In the morning, a group of SNHU student ambassadors joined Deputy Assistant Ford for coffee and talked about why they chose to attend the traditional campus. Later in the day, Deputy Assistant Ford met with College for America students and learned how the competency-based programs are helping them gain college credits or workforce training to complete a degree at their own pace.

During a roundtable discussion with University and College administrators Deputy Assistant Ford said, “It is great to see how the innovative models at SNHU, such as online and competency-based programs, provide traditional and non-traditional students the opportunity to complete a college degree at a fraction of the typical cost. These models are allowing thousands of Americans the ability to pursue a college degree for the first time, as well as also complete a degree they might have started years before.”

OCTAE concludes its series of visits on the Opportunity Across America Tour—the seventh and final back-to-school bus tour of the Obama Administration that celebrated progress in education in communities and states across the country.

Work-based Learning: We Need An Ecosystem

OCTAE is pleased to host this blog post by guest blogger: David Etzwiler, CEO, Siemens Foundation

David Etzwiler, CEO, Siemens Foundation, speaking at a podium with American flag in background

David Etzwiler, CEO, Siemens Foundation

It was an honor to take part in yesterday’s workshop on “Strengthening Work-Based Learning in Education and Transition to Career.”  For the Siemens Foundation, this is an extremely important topic, and one that we’ve recently chosen to focus on as part of our STEM Middle-Skill Initiative program.

For students, work-based learning is an underutilized method that holds the promise of opportunity and is ripe for growth.  It can help students develop essential employability skills and build a strong, positive work history.  It can also help them build an important network of peers and employers that often connect the dots between job seeker and the right position.

Companies win, too.  They have the opportunity to shape the next generation of skilled workers from an early stage and engage directly with the local education system in a meaningful way.  These experiences can also help build a positive culture in the workplace as current workers see their employer’s commitment to training and giving back to the community.

As a German company, Siemens’ roots run deep in apprenticeships, and the company has thrived from its access to the strong, skilled pipeline of workers that come from these work-based learning programs in Germany.

In the U.S., Siemens has worked to develop apprenticeships, but it’s an effort that needs a much more broad-based approach if the U.S. is going to successfully scale the model.   Like so many other efforts worth the outcome, work-based learning can require a lot of time, commitment and resources.

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