Things Change

I made a very sad decision last week: After years of avid gardening, I’m finally going to tear it all up and plant grass in that space instead. The reason? The trees in our backyard, which were small when we moved in 11 years ago, are now so big that my (former) garden area isn’t getting enough sun.

Every year those trees cast more and more shade, and every year I was able to grow less and less. I was in denial for a long time, but I finally had to accept that conditions had changed, and I had to change in response.

What does that have to do with career connected learning? Everything.

Like my garden, there are lots of CTE and pathways programs out there that were created when conditions were great, or when things were done very differently. A media program, for example, that was launched decades ago may no longer reflect the kinds of opportunities available in the community. An auto tech program designed 20 years ago, left unchanged, may not prepare students to deal with the modern “computer with wheels” that we call a car.

That’s why I’m very excited about one of the new requirements in Perkins V: The Comprehensive Needs Assessment. The law says:

“To be eligible to receive financial assistance under this part, an eligible recipient shall— (A) conduct a comprehensive local needs assessment related to career and technical education and include the results of the needs assessment in the local application submitted under subsection (a); and (B) not less than once every 2 years, update such comprehensive local needs assessment.”

I hope people realize what an opportunity this represents: By regularly reviewing workforce needs and occupational requirements in your community, you’ll help to ensure that your program is truly relevant and that you’re truly preparing students for their futures. As my garden experience demonstrates, things change – and regularly doing a Comprehensive Needs Assessment ensures that you’ll have the information you need to change with them.

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions ( NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education

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