Mixing Work and Play: Building Awareness for Career and Tech Ed Opportunities in Parks and Rec

By Megan Phillippi | Posted on September 21, 2018

CTE Briefing

Thank you to everyone who responded to our Action Alert last week encouraging your members of Congress and their staff to attend the Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Afterschool Programs briefing hosted by the Senate CTE Caucus and the Senate Afterschool Caucus in coordination with the Afterschool Alliance! We had a great turnout and learned a lot about State Superintendents, program directors and students themselves how leveraging the out-of-school community including afterschool and summer programs helps create the flexible, responsive, motivating pathways to careers.

According to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, at least 70 percent of employers indicated that they look for the following attributes in candidates: an ability to work on a team, problem-solving skills, written communication skills, and verbal communication skills. In addition to these foundational skills, the anticipated increase in STEM Jobs over the next ten years will require an increase in basic technical education and skills.

CTE represents a rebranding and improvement of previous vocational training programs that were typically only available to high school students who were not tracked into college or military service pathways. Briefing panelist Traci Jadlos, Executive Director of After-School All-Stars in Cleveland, noted their CTE program is open to students starting as early as fifth grade and provides opportunities for career exploration and skills development. In addition to providing greater opportunities to a variety of age groups (including adults!), CTE programs provide rigorous classroom and hands-on training for a variety of career trajectories, including those that require completing which two or four-year college programs.

Afterschool and summer learning programs, including those offered by local parks and rec agencies, are well positioned to support youth in developing the in-demand skills and competencies sought by employers. The flexibility of afterschool programs allows for exposure to a variety of career pathways through activities including mentorship programs, field trips, STEM education activities, and internship and apprenticeship opportunities. According to a CareerBuilder survey, approximately 1 in 4 high school students reported their career interests were based on what they saw in popular media including television shows and movies and 33 percent of full-time workers expressed regret in their selected college major.  CTE programs can provide youth exposure to careers they did not know existed, spark career interests, and help set forth a clear (and potentially a more cost-effective) pathway for attaining career goals.

There are several federal laws and funding programs that support CTE and STEM education. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), formerly known as No Child Left Behind, and includes a reauthorization of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program. The 21st CCLC program supports the establishment of local community-based educational programs for children in out-of-school time settings, particularly for low-income areas. Centers are encouraged to focus educational curriculum on math and science and to offer enrichment activities that add to the academic education children receive during the school day. You may recall that the 21st CCLC was subject to potential funding cuts through the FY 2018 budget appropriations process. Thanks to your advocacy efforts, funding for 21st CCLC was preserved and the program continues to offer high-quality opportunities for students to build in-demand knowledge and skills for the 21st century workforce.

In addition to ESSA, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act of 2018 includes provisions that greatly benefit parks and recreation agencies and your efforts to provide youth with workforce skills development opportunities. The CTE Act allows for community-based partners, defined as a “local public organization,” to become eligible entities to receive funding directly to support CTE programs locally. It prioritizes STEM learning programs for underrepresented students, especially those encouraging career pathways for non-traditional careers, such as girls in computer science or coding camps for Latino or African-American students. Finally, it allows for career development activities to start as early as fifth grade (the previous limit was seventh grade).

In addition to federal funding, states also provide funding opportunities for CTE Programming. Briefing panelist Jillian Balow, the State Superintended of Public Instruction in Wyoming, shared her commitment to ensuring all high school graduates in her state are ready for careers, college or the military through the infusion of CTE throughout their ESSA state plan and through funding opportunities available to innovative programs promoting CTE.

Is your park and rec agency helping to build the skills and capacities of the 21st century workforce? Are you capitalizing on any federal or state funding opportunities to support your CTE programs? Contact NRPA’s Senior Government Affairs Manager Kate Clabaugh to share your CTE program story!

Are you joining us in Indy for the NRPA Annual Conference next week? Be sure to check out our session on how afterschool programs can apply for funding from the 21st CCLC Program!

Megan Phillippi is NRPA's Government Affairs Intern.