Aligning Education with Business and Industry
Working closely with the Department of Commerce, the TEA identified critical industry clusters having a positive impact on economic development within the state and recommended career technical program areas for additional emphasis. Programs within these areas are given priority consideration in determining grant awards of targeted resources such as the Carl D. Perkins Postsecondary Reserve Fund and the State Technology Innovation and Internship Program grants. Frequently, grant proposals are reviewed jointly by KBOR and Commerce staff to ensure funds are used effectively to increase the workforce development efforts of both agencies.
As new programs are presented for approval, the TEA ensures the proposed programs align with business and industry needs for current and emerging high skill, high wage occupations. Institutions must demonstrate local, regional and/or statewide need for proposed technical education and training programs by identifying occupational shortages, potential wages, student interest and local industry support for the occupational area for which the proposed program will be preparing graduates.
The TEA utilizes information from various labor studies and continues partnerships with the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor to continually refine, identify and communicate Kansas workforce needs.
Aligning Educational Offerings within the System
The TEA has developed a demand-driven framework and implemented a process to align like technical programs within the system with the needs of business and industry, improve the seamlessness between secondary and postsecondary technical education programs and among postsecondary technical education programs within the system, utilize industry-based assessments to verify the skills of program graduates and increase the number of graduates attaining credentials recognized and valued by business and industry. The process incorporates appropriate industry standards, credentials and assessments based on input from statewide business and industry committees and valued by Kansas employers. Following the approved framework, existing technical programs are closely examined and common core courses, pre-requisites, exit points and program lengths are established. In addition, Postsecondary Perkins State Leadership funds have been earmarked to assist colleges in attaining recommended program accreditations and the upgrading of instructor credentials, when necessary, to meet program accreditation standards.
Technical assistance and guidance is provided to assist colleges with the development of programs of study (a Perkins requirement) and implementation of the Career Pathways initiative to more closely connect secondary and postsecondary technical education programs. In many cases, the focus of the secondary portion of a program of study has been on the foundation skills necessary to prepare students for occupations within a 'pathway' while the postsecondary technical education focus has been on the preparation for specific occupations within the pathway. The Postsecondary Targeting Technical Talent initiative was implemented to increase the delivery of college credit-bearing course work to high school students providing these students advanced standing in postsecondary technical programs upon completion of high school.
Enhancing System Participation
Raising awareness and the image of technical education is a major area of focus among the TEA's priorities. The TEA approved and implemented a comprehensive marketing plan for technical education. One of the first steps was the development and the launching of the CareerZoomKansas website. With the tagline 'Put Your Passion to Work,' this website allows individuals to search for and find information on career technical education training opportunities related to their interests or passion that are provided by the 26 community and technical colleges within the state. Site users can search for potential programs using broad occupational categories, specific occupational titles and/or by institution, statewide or within specific regions. The website also provides information regarding tuition and fees associated with technical programs as well as direct links to each institution for additional information and admission requirements. The website also accommodates a direct link to the Department of Commerce KANSASWORKS website through which users can search for potential job opportunities, get workforce information, create a professional profile and/or post a resume. The Kansas career technical education spectrum is vast with numerous options, offerings, programs and career paths. For those individuals without a clear occupational focus, the website also provides a direct link to the Kansas CareerPipeline website which provides a variety of career planning tools including individual interest assessments and a variety of occupational/career awareness resources. Current plans include further integration of information and access among these various websites as well as connecting directly to labor market information from the Kansas Department of Labor which will only strengthen this resource and unify the career technical and statewide workforce messages of these agencies.
Enhancing Funding for Technical Education
In response to the legislative charge, now in statute, a credit-hour based, tiered cost model for technical education has been developed from which a funding distribution formula for postsecondary technical training programs can be based. In addition, a postsecondary database has been built to provide the required student and course level data necessary to support the model. This cost model recognizes and supports cost differentials associated with providing high demand/high tech training and is responsive to program growth. Specific consideration of target industries critical to the Kansas economy and/or any other factors deemed necessary or advisable will be applicable as the model is implemented. The cost model is comprised of three basic cost elements associated with technical programs: (1) instructor costs; (2) extraordinary costs, such as equipment and materials; and (3) instructional support costs, such as infrastructure, student services and support and facilities. The model does not function on a cost reimbursement basis but projects an average of what the cost should be for providing technical education courses and programs identified through student credit hours earned from data submitted in the postsecondary database.
The second phase of development includes the refinement of current funding appropriations/structures to more clearly identify funding and expenditures specifically for technical education as well as potential options for financing the new model in the future. The current funding structure does not differentiate funding for technical and non-technical credit hours generated.
Enhancing Legislation and Policy for Growth
The TEA recommended changes in a series of statutes amending current law to: (1) codify appropriations bill proviso language regarding the development of a funding model for postsecondary technical education; (2) update references regarding the state plan for career and technical education and the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act; (3) replace outdated 'vocational education' terminology with currently used 'career technical education' where possible; and (4) repeal wording and/or statutes no longer needed or obsolete. Additionally, the Regents approved the TEA's recommendation to amend the KBOR policy and procedures addressing the approval of new programs for community and technical colleges by changing the required length of time for the open comment period from 45 days to 14 days, thus allowing a quicker response time for TEA and Board action. Study and review of legislation and policies regarding technical education continue as a means to identify potential improvements to the postsecondary technical education system, ensure smooth transitions from secondary to postsecondary education and encourage education for career advancement.