Advance CTE, a nonprofit organization supporting improvements in career technical education (CTE) pathways at the state level, is among the partners coordinating the New Skills for Youth (NSFY) initiative, which supports ten states in expanding high-quality career pathway opportunities. Formerly known as the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education, Advance CTE also supports CTE improvement in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, through professional development, advocacy, and research.

The NSFY initiative, which includes the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Education Strategy Group (ESG) as well as Advance CTE, supports innovation in vanguard states, to identify and promote best practices in providing high quality career pathways. Ten states—Delaware,  Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin—were each awarded $2 million over two years, funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co., to build new, and expand existing, career pathways in high schools, community colleges, and technical centers. 

One area of focus is pushing beyond access to promote career advising that helps students identify pathways most suited to their interests and aptitudes. States are also developing ways to evaluate career readiness; forty states currently include measures of career readiness in their state or federal accountability systems. Finally, the ten states in the NSFY initiative are exploring strategies to increase employer engagement in planning and implementing career pathways. Since the work is still underway, NSFY uses interim criteria to gauge success: new state CTE policies, new funding, and new pathway opportunities for young people. The six NSFY objectives are:

Demand-driven and employer-led processes

Rigor and quality in career pathways for all

Career-focused accountability systems

Scaled pathways that culminate in credentials

Aligned state and federal funding streams

Cross-institutional alignment.

In addition to the NSFY initiative, Advance CTE intensively supports state CTE leaders through communications and professional development. It holds two national conferences each year and offers a year-long leadership program for new state CTE directors. A program currently underway expands its geographic reach by “training trainers”: career counselors, selected from an applicant pool, attend workshops preparing them to serve as regional or state CTE champions assisting key district and school personnel to improve career counseling practices.

Advocacy and research are the other facets of Advance CTE’s work. The organization recently helped pass the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act” (aka Perkins V), providing $1.3 billion a year for CTE through 2024 and requires programs to address local workforce alignment through a local comprehensive needs assessment process. On the research side, Advance CTE has developed a broad menu of case studies, reports, and analyses highlighting promising practices and recommendations in a variety of policy areas. Topics include improving CTE data quality, recruiting CTE teachers, providing meaningful career counseling, expanding CTE to the middle grades, and ensuring equitable access and success in CTE.

While local leaders are responsible for program implementation and creating learning opportunities to foster career success, state-level policies help these programs move forward. Advance CTE focuses on helping state-level leaders fulfill their crucial role of setting the agenda:

~ Expanding access to high-quality CTE

~ Promoting equity by addressing historical barriers (e.g., socio-economic disadvantages, race and gender bias, rural isolation)

~ Securing funding

~ Setting up data processes

~ Providing high-quality professional development and

~ Holding programs accountable.

Focus of Organization's Work

Advance CTE’s mission is to support visionary state leadership, cultivate best practices, and speak with a collective voice to advance high-quality CTE policies, programs, and pathways that ensure career success for each learner.

Personnel Required

Advance CTE’s staff of eleven is committed to elevating the Career Technical Education (CTE) field by providing thoughtful professional development, advocacy and research for state CTE directors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

Population Served

State CTE directors and other state and local CTE leaders

Organization's Accomplishments

Advance CTE successfully supported the passing of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), which was authorized through 2024 and provides nearly $1.3 billion in funding annually to support CTE in the U.S.

The organization is also involved in a ten-state initiative called New Skills for Youth, which is working to transform career readiness opportunities for youth by expanding high-quality work-based learning and career pathways opportunities. Advance CTE is one of three project partners, along with the Council of Chief State School Officers and Education Strategy Group. The initiative is funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Measures of Success

While the ultimate goal of the New Skills for Youth initiative is to improve the quality of career pathways and expand access to high-quality learning experiences, it is difficult to discern statewide impact on a three-year timeline. As interim measures, Advance CTE considers new state policies passed, new funding allocated to support career pathways, and new pathway opportunities created as a result of the New Skills for Youth initiative.

Important Factors for Success

States in the New Skills for Youth initiative each received $2 million over three years to help them add capacity, access technical assistance, and provide subgrants to pilot local initiatives.


After a planning and early implementation period in 2016, the 10 states in the New Skills for Youth initiative were selected to participate in the initiative over a three-year timeline, from January 2017 through December 2019.

Overcoming Challenges

The core project team (Advance CTE, CCSSO and ESG) provides assistance and supports state CTE staff through biannual meetings, coaching, technical assistance, and research.

Lessons Learned

The work is still ongoing.

Future Goals

This project’s objective is to expand career pathway opportunities for youth within the ten states and identify best practices to share with the remaining states. 

Major Takeaways

It’s important to identify the different roles that local and state leaders play. While local leaders are responsible for program implementation and creating opportunities that support lifelong learning and career success, state leaders play a critical role in expanding access, securing sustainable funding, setting up reliable data processes, holding programs accountable for student success, sharing best practices across the state (and across the nation), and ensuring educators can access high-quality professional development. They must work in partnership to create environments that are conducive for learning.


At the Pathways to Adult Success October 2019 Conference, Advance CTE presents Career Technical Education as a Pathway to Adult Success: National, State and Local Perspectives.

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