Harris, J.C., Warner, M.T., Yee, K., & Wilkerson, S.B. (2020). Assessing the alignment between West Virginia’s career and technical education programs and the labor market (REL 2020–019). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia.
To help students leave high school on a path toward success in the labor market, education policymakers and practitioners often focus on improving career and technical education (CTE) opportunities in high school. Understanding the alignment between high school CTE programs and the labor market is an important step in this process. To support CTE improvement efforts, this study quantitatively assessed the alignment between West Virginia’s high school CTE programs and the labor market, with a focus on alignment to regional high-demand occupations that require moderate occupational preparation. These “high-demand study occupations” are the 20 occupations in each region of West Virginia with the largest number of long-term projected employment openings from 2014 to 2024 that require more than a high school diploma (for example, a license or work-related experience) but less than a bachelor’s degree. The study found that 70 percent of West Virginia’s long-term projected employment openings typically require some occupational preparation beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Further, 93 percent of the regional long-term projected employment openings in high-demand study occupations were served by at least one aligned CTE program in the same region. However, students in only 53 percent of the state’s CTE programs were in a program that aligned to at least one high-demand study occupation within their region. West Virginia stakeholders can use the findings to improve their CTE system’s alignment and better prepare students for a postsecondary career. This study also serves as an example for policymakers and practitioners in other states who are interested in quantifying their CTE system’s alignment in order to make data-informed decisions.