It is time to fully embrace Career and Technical Education (CTE) as a crucial and highly valuable component of education in our state. For many students, attending a traditional four-year university is not the ideal course to pursue after graduating high school. These students can achieve better success after graduation by entering the workforce.
CTE offers a promising opportunity to broaden educational options and to equip students with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce after graduation. Strengthening our approach to CTE will provide Nevada’s employers with even greater access to the skilled workers they need to allow their businesses to grow and thrive.
Additionally, the dual-credit nature of CTE coursework gives students a powerful boost in encouraging them to gain mastery training and advanced degrees in post-secondary, two- and four-year degree programs.
I plan to strengthen CTE in Nevada in a number of ways:
I. Investing more in CTE programs
As Governor, I will support a significant increase in Nevada’s investments in our CTE programs. During this campaign, I have had the privilege of visiting several of Nevada’s top Career and Technical Academies and to see many CTE programs and students in action. I’ve been extremely impressed by the incredible innovation at work, as well as the commitment and enthusiasm of CTE students and instructors. These programs are doing an incredible job of preparing Nevada’s students for success at the next level.
It’s no wonder, then, that demand for increased investment in CTE is strong. While exact statewide numbers are difficult to ascertain, there is ample evidence that many students who wish to gain access to CTE opportunities are unable to do so because of the limited scope of our programs.
For example, the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology in Reno has just over 500 students enrolled in its program, with a current waiting list of more than 1,000 students. That means that for every three students who wish to enroll at this outstanding school, two are kept out. We see a similar situation at the Southeast Career Technical Academy in Las Vegas, which welcomes in about 550 new freshmen each year while having to turn away approximately 2,000 — meaning that about four out of five who apply are left out because of the limited spots available.
We can do better. Given that the state currently allocates only about $25 million per biennium to CTE — less than 1 percent of total state spending on K-12 education — there is a tremendous opportunity for us to substantially increase funding in this area.
A stronger state commitment to Nevada’s CTE programs will help ensure that more students are able to take advantage of the incredible educational options that CTE programs have to offer.
II. Engaging Nevada’s business community
I will make it a priority to get Nevada’s business community more involved in supporting CTE programs. This will be a win-win — students will benefit from the expanded educational opportunities, and businesses will be helping to feed the pipeline that produces the skilled workforce they need. I will support policies that will:
- Offer Nevada businesses a dollar-for dollar tax credit in exchange for financial contributions to CTE programs.
- Offer tax incentives to businesses in exchange for donating or funding equipment, which can be particularly expensive for CTE programs.
- Create better alignment and connectivity between Nevada’s industries and the state’s K-12 and post-secondary institutions, in terms of coursework and necessary workforce skills. I will also work to align state public-sector hiring with the curricula of CTE schools, setting an example for private-sector industries to follow.
- Create partnerships with the tech industry to make sure computer science is a heavy focus of the CTE curriculum, in order to better prepare our students for the jobs of the future.
- Partner K-12 schools with community colleges to align curricula and expand dual-credit courses, and make advanced certifications and associate degree acquisition available to K-12 students.
III. Removing barriers to CTE opportunities
I will be committed to identifying and removing obstacles that currently make it more difficult for CTE programs to thrive and for students to gain access to CTE opportunities. For CTE to really flourish in Nevada, we need to make sure not only that we are actively supporting CTE, but that we are not placing too many barriers in the way of expansion and progress. As Governor, I will promote policies that:
- Address the instructor shortage by exploring paths to alternative licensing and removing any other unnecessary hurdles in the hiring process. I will also work to encourage instructor sharing between schools, which is currently allowed but not fully utilized in our state.
- Reform insurance regulations that currently discourage businesses from offering 11th and 12th graders apprenticeship opportunities.
- Reform the Star system, which the state uses to measure and compare schools’ educational effectiveness, so that it recognizes dual credit for CTE, and ensure the Nevada Department of Education calculates this in a way that no longer penalizes schools that are working to prepare students for CTE professions and vocations.
- Reform our approach to the WorkKeys Assessment Test — the career-ready part of the ACT that helps measure foundational skills needed for workplace success — by giving students a choice between taking the ACT, the WorkKeys test, or both in order to satisfy testing requirements.
- Engage local policymakers in the process for building CTE schools, in order to identify the barriers to development, such as zoning and permitting.
I have no doubt that Nevada is poised for a major economic boom if we can produce the workforce we need. Providing our students with a clear pathway to success and creating a new generation of career-ready Nevadans will help make Nevada’s next chapter our best yet.