Career and Technical Education: Providing Insight Into a Critical Statewide Workforce System

In recent years, policymakers, business leaders, and educators have given renewed attention to the role that Career and Technical Education (CTE) plays in the local and statewide economy. Given the complexity of CTE administration, determining whether the state was maximizing its return on investment presented a daunting challenge.

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The Problem

Indiana’s early vocational training effort was so far ahead of its time that it served as a model for federal programs. After decades of expansion, shifting needs, and uneven growth across the 49 CTE Districts, Indiana’s standard-setting system had become opaque. Whether it was accomplishing its important mission was difficult, at best, to determine.

The Approach

Before we could understand the current state of CTE administration, curriculum, and funding sources and uses, we needed to understand CTE’s history. Only after conducting that research could we determine where to focus efforts for fact-finding and data analysis to provide productive insight. Our research enabled us to uncover trends in class offerings and tie them to funding and per-student costs as well as program value for students in terms of wages.

The Outcome

Within a sprawling and ever-changing system, finding answers starts with simply collecting the facts. The long history of CTE in Indiana meant, not surprisingly, that not only was there a mountain of data but that it reflected some entrenched ideologies and procedures that had outlived their usefulness. We helped to create an objective, comprehensive, and meaningful compendium of information to reveal gaps in program data and opportunities for improvement.