Testimony regarding career pathways and workforce development systems

Testimony of UFT Vice President for Career and Technical Education Sterling Roberson before the City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor and the Committee on Small Business

Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify here today for the United Federation of Teachers. On behalf of the union’s 200,000 members, we would like to thank Chairs I. Daneek Miller and Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., and the Committees on Civil Service and Labor and Small Business for holding this hearing. We’re here today because of our commitment to providing all children educational pathways to a brighter future. Our members and students benefit from your diligence and critical oversight over the career and academic resources they need to best position our students for successful lives.

In 2015, Mayor de Blasio’s administration released the OneNYC Plan, a comprehensive blueprint for addressing the city’s social, economic and environmental challenges. To support the plan’s ambitious goals for workforce development in growing sectors of the economy, the City committed to ensuring that all students in the five boroughs have access to an education that enables them to build the skills they need through real-world, work-based learning experiences.

It is critical to strengthen and expand career and technical education programs in the city to achieve these bold objectives. Career and technical education programs help keep students from falling through the cracks by offering alternatives to traditional higher education and equipping them for well-paid, secure work.

Our union’s advocacy on behalf of expanding career and technical education programs is well known. I can speak firsthand about the impact of career and technical education on students, from my experience as both a veteran career and technical education teacher and as an advocate for quality CTE programs and policies that strengthen our efforts toward graduating young people with certified credentials.

We have made great strides in growing CTE opportunities in the city in recent years. Six new CTE programs launched over the past year, with 16 more coming by the end of next year and an additional 23 planned by 2019. Just last month, we held a CTE High School Fair at George Westinghouse High School, which represented 75 schools and drew 800 middle school students and their families.

We also held a CTE Expo at the Transit Tech High Schools for middle school guidance counselors this past June, as well as CTE expos featuring industry and college partners, including a panel discussion called Bright Futures: Girls in CTE. We’ve increased funding for CTE programs and made it available to all programs based on student enrollment.

Three years ago, the city set a goal to provide 1,000 additional work-based learning opportunities for students over a three-year period. We’ve exceeded that goal, and we’re still creating internships for even more students. Internships provide real-world experience and on-the-job training in a nurturing environment. It’s a great way to introduce our students to the rigors of a job.

We must continue developing work-focused educational initiatives in addition to career and technical education programs. To that end, we’re working to expand access to computer science and technology education and have trained more than 100 teachers in that field. We’re working with industries to help with reviewing curriculum to ensure students are learning what they need to succeed in CTE programs and obtain entry-level jobs. We’re also providing industry with an opportunity to engage with and better prepare teachers to provide a truly positive CTE experience to their students.

We’re increasing postsecondary attainment throughout the city through articulation agreements between CTE schools and universities. In October, the UFT held a symposium with LEGO Education to help educators explore how to use LEGO robotics to teach their students the critical STEM, coding, and mechanical skills that are in high demand in some of the city’s highest-growth industries.

As we continue to work together to offer New York’s children as many roads to success as possible, we must consider how we ensure access and equity. How do we make our programs accessible to students with disabilities and English language learners? How do we expand educational programs for incarcerated individuals to help them rehabilitate and start over — and to cut down on recidivism?

To answer these questions and keep advancing educational opportunities in the city, the UFT will continue to work with your committees and this council, and partner with local businesses to review curricula, provide professional learning opportunities, and improve CTE program quality our students need to succeed in a today’s knowledge economy.

Again Chairs Miller and Cornegy, we thank you and your committees and we want you to know that the UFT is counting on your continued advocacy for the programs all of our students need and deserve.

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