A Skills beyond School Review of the United States

Author(s): Kuczera, Małgorzata; and Field, Simon.

Organizational Author(s): OECD

Funding Source: Funding source not identified

Resource Availability: Publicly available

WSS Large Thumbnail Logo


Analyzes postsecondary career and technical education (CTE), career-focused associate degrees, postsecondary certificates, and industry certifications in the United States.


“A generation ago, the United States had one of the highest levels of both high school and postsecondary attainment in the world. But now the US faces a global skills challenge, given rising education and skills levels in many competitor countries. This report is concerned with postsecondary ‘career and technical education’ (CTE), career-focused associate degrees, postsecondary certificates, and industry certifications” (p.9).

“Three factors may act as barriers to postsecondary attainment. First, the basic skills of US teenagers and high school graduates are relatively weak compared with many other OECD countries. Second, decentralization means that the choices faced by any individual are more difficult and more uncertain, with many routes to a target career or occupation. Third, despite public financial support which makes college programs affordable for many students, the financial risks of investing in postsecondary education can be higher in the US, because costs and returns are highly variable. The joint effect of all three of these factors is that investing in postsecondary education is often more confusing and risky than in many other OECD countries” (p.9).

Chapter 1 “…provides an overview assessment of postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) in the United States, its strengths and the challenges it faces relative to other countries” (p.15).

Chapter 2 “advances recommendations to substantially strengthen quality assurance in postsecondary education and its links to student aid, to ensure that existing rules on quality are enforced, that aspects of quality linked to postsecondary CTE are adequately addressed, and that the collection of data is enhanced, building on the College Scorecard” (p.47).

Chapter 3 covers occupational credentials and recommends “creating a national quality standard for certifications” (p.75).

Chapter 4 discusses transitions out of and into postsecondary programs and “also advances recommendations to improve access to the labor market” (p.91).

And lastly, chapter 5 focuses on a plan to implement the recommendations made throughout the report.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The report’s overarching recommendation is: “While taking advantage of the vibrant diversity of the US postsecondary CTE system, balance the decentralized approach with a strategic pursuit of more quality, coherence and transparency” (p.10).

The report lists recommendations to help deliver this overarching recommendation. These include:

• “Substantially strengthen quality assurance in postsecondary education and its links to title IV student aid” (p.10), which can be accomplished by linking “… institutional eligibility for title IV student aid to consistent and demanding quality standards” (p.10).
• “Establish a quality standard for certifications and obtain better data on both certifications and certificates…Where industry is willing, establish quality standards for certifications based on industry support and quality in the assessment” (p.12).
• “Systematically develop and support prior learning assessment both as a means of encouraging adults to return to postsecondary education, and because of its wider benefits” (p.13).
• “Develop effective articulation frameworks. To this end, among other matters:
- Build articulation requirements into accreditation procedures.
- Use industry recognized standards in CTE programs to increase their comparability.
- Ensure that students have sufficient information and guidance to understand transition opportunities.
- Continue to develop crosswalks between apprenticeships and other postsecondary institutions and programs” (p.13)
• “Develop workplace training as a standard element in postsecondary CTE programs, taking advantage of the workplace as a learning environment, promoting partnerships between CTE institutions and employers, and securing an effective transition of graduates into employment” (p.14).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Related Content

Audio Player

Click here to download file.

Workforce System Strategies Content Information

Content Type: Resource

Post Information

Views: 61
Publicaton Date: 2013
Posted: 2/16/2017 8:36 PM
Posted In: Workforce System Strategies
Like Share Print Email