New Iowa law will hold local career and technical education programs to a higher standard

Career and technical education programs in Iowa schools will be held to a higher set of standards under legislation passed this spring. CTE programs use work-based learning to prepare students for life after high school, whether that is entering the workforce or attending college. Iowa’s standards hadn’t undergone a major revision since 1989, allowing each school district to evolve CTE programs at its own pace.

Over time, pockets of high-quality CTE programs took root across the state, and state officials became concerned that students did not have equal access to high-quality programming, says Jeremy Varner, administrator of the Iowa Department of Education’s Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation.
To ensure equity among CTE programs, the Iowa Legislature established the Secondary CTE Task Force in 2013. After studying the issue for two years, the task force issued five recommended changes to the state’s CTE policies, which were then translated into legislation (HF 2392) that was adopted this year. The legislation calls on CTE programs in Iowa to:
  • align their courses and other offerings with needs of students, employers and the state’s economy;
  • integrate career guidance into a student’s educational experience;
  • teach students about the workforce at an earlier age; 
  • expand student access to work-based learning; and
  • create regional partnerships among education stakeholders.
Schools will be required to provide students with access to an electronic, vendor-provided career information and decision-making system that they can use to explore options that match their interests. All 8th-grade students will design an individualized academic and career plan that will be used to direct their coursework in grades 9-12. 
Districts must designate a team comprised of a school counselor, a CTE teacher and a work-based learning coordinator to help each student successfully complete his or her plan. This team is also required to consult regularly with representatives of employers, state and local workforce systems and centers, higher-education institutions, and postsecondary training programs to ensure that the school’s CTE offerings are relevant and align with the labor and workforce needs of the region and state.
Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa, who sponsored HF 2392, hopes these measures will expose students to different kinds of job opportunities.
“There is a middle-skills workforce shortage in Iowa,” says Hanusa. “We had been hearing from businesses across the state that they simply did not have the employees that they needed.”
Middle-skills jobs, such as construction or manufacturing, require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree. According to a 2014 study by the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill jobs accounted for 57 percent of Iowa’s labor market, but only 50 percent of the state’s workers were trained to that level.
Stateline Midwest: August 20162.63 MB