A growing number of national policy leaders think New Jersey’s system for delivering career and technical education (CTE) could be a model for other states.
So earlier this month, three influential policy groups organized a conference at Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT) to focus on the Garden State’s approach.
Advance CTE, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Opportunity America invited more than 90 state and national education and workforce experts, Congressional staff members, and business and labor leaders for an in-depth discussion on how New Jersey is developing its workforce of the future.
“This is a wonderful time for CTE in America,” said Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of Opportunity America, a Washington think tank and policy group that promotes economic mobility.
“There are many rich policy discussions ongoing in Washington about the value of career and technical education for all types of people and businesses, and there is great innovation in the states,” she said.
“We’ve all recognized that something very positive is occurring in New Jersey. We’re here to listen, ask questions, celebrate what you are doing, and lift it up for others to see,” Jacoby said.
She said the national visitors had several basic questions for the audience and presenters:
“What’s working here? What’s your ‘secret sauce’? What are your next steps? What can the state do to advance this further? And what can Washington do to help?” Jacoby said.
New Jersey’s CTE community, “is honored that these influential organizations have come to our state to learn more about our evolving and very effective partnerships, pathways and delivery systems,” said GCIT superintendent Michael Dicken, who hosted the event.
The keynote address was delivered by New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development Rob Asaro-Angelo, who said investments in workforce development are key to New Jersey’s economic future.
“We wholeheartedly support the expansion of career and technical education and aligning it with the key growth industries in our state,” he said.
AEI’s Andy Smarick, a former Deputy Commissioner at NJDOE and the author of a 2017 AEI report, New Jersey Distinctive Approach to CTE, highlighted the benefits of a county-based system, which he said supports innovation as well as strong partnerships between county vocational-technical schools, county colleges and employers.
He led a panel discussion about how secondary CTE programs prepare all types of students for success by integrating academic, technical and work-based learning.
The national organizations say another important element in New Jersey’s success is the role that county colleges can play in creating pathways to help students earn the industry credentials and associates’ degrees they need to launch careers in high-demand, well-paying industries, while keeping their options open for bachelor’s degrees and beyond.
One model cited was the new partnership among Rowan University, Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC, formerly Gloucester County College) and GCIT, which gives students the opportunity to earn college credits towards associates’ degrees at RCGC while in high school, obtain industry credentials along the way that will boost their value to employers, and then obtain bachelors’ degrees at Rowan, all at a considerably lower cost than a traditional college education path.
Watch highlights from the conference.