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Michael Simas’ Testimony to the Committee on Education of the New York City Council

On Wednesday 21st September Michael Simas, Executive Vice President of the Partnership for New York City, testified to the New York City Council Committee on Education on Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs. Below is a summary of his comments to the committee and the recording of the full session can be found here (Partnership comments start at 1:27).

Thank you Chairman Dromm and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify on citywide career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The Partnership for New York City represents the city’s business leaders and largest private sector employers. We consider Career & Technical Education to be a critical component of public education and workforce development in New York. We are working with city and state agencies and nonprofit intermediaries to expand employer engagement with and support for CTE programs.

New York City suffers from a shortage of skilled workers for a number of fields, particularly in the high tech and health care sectors. In July, NYC employers listed 116,000 jobs in the five boroughs that are available but unfilled, largely because of a shortage of qualified applicants.

Last year, working with the Department of Education, the Partnership and PwC conducted a comprehensive survey of CTE schools and the employers that participate in CTE programs. We found that employers and educators are largely aligned when it comes to the value of academically rigorous CTE experience for high school and college students and also on the failures of our current approach to CTE, which all agreed is fragmented, under-resourced and overly bureaucratic.  We also found that employers and educators consider business engagement with CTE a charitable contribution rather than an investment in a future workforce.  All agreed that more regular and broad-based support is needed from employers and industry associations to keep up with rapidly changing labor needs and skills requirements by providing regular input on curriculum, professional development of teachers, and to provide work experience opportunities for students. There is also a need to engage nonprofit intermediaries to manage and significantly expand internships, mentorships and relationships between educators, employers and students.

We are pleased that the Council and the Administration have put additional resources into the budget for CTE this year and that the Mayor’s Center for Youth Employment is working with DOE to insure that CTE is a critical component of the city’s efforts to create one, integrated and high-performing, demand-driven workforce development system. The traditional model of vocational education, where technical training is not integrated with academic requirements and ends with a high school or GED degree, is simply not appropriate in the 21st century.

We support DOE’s efforts to restructure CTE programs to ensure that they are high quality and relevant to market needs. This can only be accomplished through expanded partnerships with nonprofit intermediaries, post-secondary educational institutions, as well as employers and industry associations. It requires changes in certification requirements for degrees and for teacher certification.

Today, business and job location decisions are being based more than anything else on the availability of a highly skilled labor force. Employers who are committed to growing in New York are motivated to invest in solid educational programs that prepare the future workforce.  We need a new structure, better tracking systems, and real integration between economic development, workforce development and educational policies and programs. The Partnership members are encouraged that CTE is a priority for the Council and we are prepared to work closely with you to advance our shared goals.

Thank you.