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February is Career Technical Education (CTE) Month, created to raise awareness about and help bridge the skills gap currently experienced by businesses across the nation. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, more than half of U.S. employers report struggling with talent acquisition. This shortage is particularly acute within industries experiencing high growth and increased demand for technically-trained workers, such as healthcare, information technology, and the skilled trades.

Traditional education models have been slow to deliver the training necessary for high school graduates to effectively bridge state and local skills gaps upon entry into the workforce. Consequently, according to a 2015 Pew Research study, roughly seven-in-ten (72 percent) Americans say “a lot” of responsibility falls on individuals themselves to ensure they have the right skills and education to be successful in today’s economy. More than half (60 percent) believe public K-12 schools bear responsibility for such training.

A national workforce of lifelong learners armed with high school diplomas, along with relevant skills and credentials, is critical for 21st century competitiveness. Yet, as I’ve learned through my work on the Board of the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC) for the past 14 years, remarkably, nearly one in four high school students in America fails to graduate on time. Literally millions of young people are grossly ill-equipped to compete in today’s workforce and economy, and quite likely condemned to lives filled with socioeconomic disadvantage.

Career Technical Education is one of the NDPC’s fifteen research-based strategies to reduce dropouts and increase graduation rates. Read the entire Medium piece here.

About The Author

Stuart Udell

Stuart J. Udell joined K12 as the company’s Chief Executive Officer in February 2016. Mr. Udell brings significant strategic and operational experience to K¹² in the education industry, amassed over a 27-year career. Most recently, Mr. Udell served as Executive Chairman and prior as Chief Executive Officer of Catapult Learning, Inc., a privately held provider of instructional services, professional development, and operator of schools. Prior to joining Catapult Learning, Mr. Udell was the President of Postsecondary Education at The Princeton Review. He was concurrently the Chief Executive Officer of Penn Foster, a global leader in high school and career-focused online learning, which he sold to The Princeton Review. Mr. Udell spent eleven years at Kaplan, most recently as President of Kaplan K¹² Learning Services, where he built the K-12 school division. From 1997-2001, Mr. Udell was President of the School Renaissance Institute, the training, publishing, and research subsidiary of Renaissance Learning. Since 2002, Mr. Udell has served on the board of directors of the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (Clemson University), where he was recently recognized for his contributions as Chairman. Mr. Udell holds a MBA from Columbia University and a BS from Bucknell University.

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