Since first taking office in 2019, Governor DeWine has consistently prioritized policies aimed at expanding and improving career-technical education (CTE). His first budget included several policies intended to give high schoolers a head start on earning industry-recognized credentials (IRCs), including an incentive program that awarded high schools with additional funds when students earned a qualifying credential. Two years later, he doubled down on IRC funding and programs like TechCred, which helps Ohioans earn technology-focused credentials and aids businesses in upskilling their employees.
Now, with his second term under way, DeWine is strengthening his focus on CTE. Consider the table below, which highlights allocations for three special CTE funding programs since 2020 and includes the governor’s budget recommendations for FY 2024 and 2025.
As the table shows, CTE spending has risen consistently during DeWine’s term, and he’s proposed further increases in his latest budget. We’ll have to wait for legislative language to get all the nitty-gritty details, but it’s likely that the funding allocated for IRCs for high school students will bolster the state’s previous efforts to incentivize credential attainment. DeWine also mentioned in his state of the state address that some career centers lack “modern, up-to-date equipment needed to teach certain courses.” He pledged to change that, so it’s reasonable to assume that’s where the money allocated for “CTE equipment” will go.
An overview of his budget recommendations also points to three additional CTE objectives. First, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) will be charged with increasing the number of in-demand career-technical programs across the state. Focusing on “in-demand” programs is important, as a recent analysis of Ohio’s K–12 industry credential landscape conducted by ExcelinEd, a national educational advocacy organization, and Lightcast, which specializes in labor market analytics, indicated significant misalignment between the credentials employers demand and those that are promoted by the state. A whopping 68 percent of credentials—314 of the 464 that appear on the state’s promoted credential list—do not have “meaningful labor market demand.” Similar misalignment was found between the credentials employers demand and those that students actually earn. Only 20 percent of the credentials earned by the graduating class of 2020 were considered in demand, and among the top fifteen credentials earned, twelve were either not demanded by employers, oversupplied, or considered to be markers of general career readiness. Hopefully, the administration is aware of these significant mismatches, and plans to require that funding only be awarded to truly in-demand CTE programs.
Second, ODE will incentivize schools and businesses to offer work-based learning (WBL) opportunities to 10,000 students across the state. Ohio previously laid a solid foundation by requiring ODE to develop a framework for schools to grant high school credit to students who demonstrate subject competency through WBL. The state also established a tax credit for employers who offer WBL experiences. But there’s still plenty of untapped potential—like finally investing in youth apprenticeships—and it appears that this funding is aimed at realizing those possibilities.
Third, ODE will work to strengthen Business Advisory Councils, which are locally focused partnerships aimed at getting education and business leaders to work together to make schools more responsive to workforce needs and to ensure that students have relevant learning experiences (like WBL). The budget overview indicates the governor is particularly interested in providing additional support for “high-quality partnerships.” Given that K–12 schools, higher education institutions, and employers historically operate in silos—and the potential that high-quality collaborative efforts have to positively impact students, job seekers, and the community—increased support from the state could prove beneficial.
Governor DeWine’s commitment to CTE shouldn’t surprise anyone. His administration was laser-focused on workforce development and career pathways during his first term, and the initiatives he championed were both successful and popular. But even though his renewed focus isn’t surprising, it’s still worthy of praise. Here’s hoping the legislature follows the governor’s lead and not only approves these investments, but builds on them.