State Provides New Certification Opportunities to Help Students Prepare for Industry and Postsecondary Needs
NASHVILLE— Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today that the state is furthering its work to ensure students receive an education that is aligned to the needs of Tennessee’s workforce by introducing 21 new department-promoted industry certification options. These new options will be part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs offered in schools that prepare students for the workforce and are aligned to Tennessee’s highest demand industry sectors. These new certifications bring the number of CTE programs of study with specific certifications up to 46 from 30.
“As we seek to prepare more students for college and careers – especially in our state’s high-demand industries, such as information technology and health science – we must provide more opportunities for students to earn meaningful credentials and certifications while in high school,” McQueen said. “This is the largest single year increase of promoted industry certifications since we have implemented a state-recognized list of aligned industry certifications and annual review process through our CTE reform work.”
These new certifications represent a direct response to local school district and industry requests. The department does an annual review in each of the state’s 16 career clusters to ensure that the K-12 pathways for students are aligned to the needs of industry and provide a rigorous education so students are prepared for career and college opportunities. During this process, department officials review the list of industry certifications for which they have received requests from districts to add, and vet those with statewide industry advisory councils to ensure they are appropriate and high-quality pathways for students. This year, 40 percent of the requests met the requirements to be included.
In support of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, the department set forth aligned goals in its strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, to ensure that every student in Tennessee graduates high school prepared for postsecondary coursework and qualified for employment. To achieve this, high schools are encouraged to provide students career-aligned learning pathways through robust CTE programs that culminate with the achievement of nationally recognized industry certifications, capstone work-based learning experiences, and attainment of postsecondary credit hours. To support this work, the department released the Drive to 55: Pathway to Postsecondary data report in fall 2017 to provide district and school leaders information on postsecondary enrollment and CTE course alignment to labor market needs.
There have already been promising improvements in CTE. As of 2017, about 37,000 students are concentrating in CTE – about 10,000 more and a 40 percent increase from 2015. In a similar improvement, as of two years ago, only 26 percent of CTE students concentrated in a program leading directly to a high-demand occupation in their region. Now, 76 percent of CTE programs directly align to regional labor market needs.
The department’s approach to providing aligned industry certifications is designed to ensure students are presented with seamless learning pathways, beginning with exposure in middle school and continuing through postsecondary attainment. It is important that the department-promoted certifications, including these 21 new options, meet a rigorous set of criteria designed to ensure students can transfer attained certifications beyond high school to postsecondary and the workforce. To create meaningful pathways for students, courses in programs of study are designed to build upon each other to allow for stackable credentials and to prepare students for the attainment of industry certifications. This designed approach aims to increase student attainment of industry certifications, increase student transference of industry certifications to meaningful future opportunities, and ensure consistency in all industry department-promoted certifications.
The addition of these new certifications brings the total number of industry certifications that the department recognizes to 80. Additionally, the department now allows certifications to count across different programs, rather than in one program and not another. This is notable as it increases the number of pathways to certifications available to students. To view the full list of department-promoted industry certifications, visit the department’s website.