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2022 CTE Leadership Collaborative Year in Review

December 15, 2022

CTE LC Fellow

By Anna Fontus, Program Officer

Since 2018, ECMC Foundation’s CTE Leadership Collaborative (LC) has been working to change the face of postsecondary CTE leadership by equipping a diverse group of emerging leaders with the tools, resources and skills needed to advance the field. With ECMC Foundation Fellows (Fellows) working as postsecondary-focused researchers, CTE practitioners, data analysts, human resource professionals, journalists, and government officials, the LC informs the evolution of the field from different angles.

This is the secret sauce of the LC: fostering connection and collaboration across a range of approaches and disciplines. This year marked a momentous occasion for the LC: the first full year where we had Fellows from each of the six fellowship programs represented, realizing a vision we had established four years ago.

By 2025, our 300 Fellows will grow to more than 500 ECMC Foundation Fellows working to improve postsecondary CTE and strengthening the field at a moment of transformation. Programs that seek to advance education and workforce outcomes for students have been shaped by siloes that disconnect postsecondary, business, and community institutions from one another, even though they are all necessary in a student’s career attainment trajectory.  These segments are governed by different leaders, different goals, different user groups and often different geographies, with little incentive to partner with one another.

The result is a chasm between the training programs that prepare workers for available jobs and employment processes that recruit and retain talent. Once common, it is now rare to be trained and hired by the same entity. This means that learners must now navigate several separate systems.

Why We Convene

Changemakers who want to drive forward solutions that improve the entire ecosystem of learning and work need the insights and expertise of a range of perspectives, including: researchers, who help understand and confirm the impact of postsecondary CTE programs; educators and administrators, who implement evidence-based strategies to deliver high-quality CTE programs; journalists, who shape public conversation and understanding around the biggest issues facing our society and economy; data practitioners, who ensure every student’s experience and progress is measured while advancing institutional equity goals; policy leaders, who are involved in advancing and implementing state-wide CTE policies; and employers and businesses, who drive company hiring practices.

In addition to convening these typically disconnected postsecondary CTE stakeholders, the CTE Leadership Collaborative’s fellowships individually and collectively address acute challenges in the field. By connecting ACTE’s educators and administrators to journalists, postsecondary CTE programs are externally monitored and held accountable to improving student success. Examples of success stories and challenges alike are able to both motivate the involvement of state leaders and the further investigation of researchers. By bringing together individual stories and innovative approaches to measuring progress, the Fellows are able to connect diverse lived experiences to data frameworks and evidence-based practice, which will transform implementation and the societal narrative and perception of postsecondary CTE.

When convening the CTE LC Fellows, ECMC Foundation celebrates the fact that Fellows were already leaders in their field in advance of their participation with the collaborative. We work to honor the mission of the CTE Leadership Collaborative by connecting Fellows to mentoring and subject matter experts, while creating opportunities for Fellows to choose their own adventure, follow their instincts, and pursue promising avenues to systemic change. We leverage these opportunities by providing un-programmed time for connecting and cross-segmental partnerships, to allow Fellows to build upon each others’ work.

That’s why we launched the LC, to support postsecondary CTE’s current leaders, aspiring leaders, individual agencies, and cross-segmental collaboration, all at once. While each of the six fellowship programs lead their own Fellow selection process and programing, ECMC Foundation provides opportunities and support for Fellows to collaborate and exchange ideas across silos, including through the Mini-Grant Program and annual convening. These points of connection and collaboration are critical to driving the long-term, sustained transformation the field needs.

2022 Highlights

Here is how the LC advanced the CTE field in 2022:

  • Welcomed 117 New ECMC Foundation Fellows into the CTE Leadership Collaborative - With the inclusion of the newest cohorts, the CTE Leadership Collaborative now includes more than 300 current and alumni ECMC Foundation Fellows across the six fellowship programs.
  • Convened Nearly 150 Fellows Across Fields - This year’s LC Convening in Nashville, Tennessee, marked the first time ECMC Foundation Fellows from each of our six Fellowship programs were in the same room. Together, they engaged in conversations on topics such as overcoming CTE stigma and aligning CTE with corporate talent demand, while building skills on team management and grant writing in a series of workshops. The annual convening is a key piece of the LC puzzle, creating space for conversations and connections that can inspire collaboration across the postsecondary CTE field.
  • Sparked Innovative Ideas at the Inaugural Pitch Competition - The first-ever ECMC Foundation Fellow pitch competition, held during the annual convening, offered a new way for Fellows to lead on innovative solutions to challenges facing students and institutions in postsecondary CTE.
  • Illuminated Key Topics Facing CTE’s Future - The work of ECMC Foundation Fellows has explored and informed the evolution of the CTE field from different angles, including published insights on how the pandemic has reshaped postsecondary CTE and the field’s efforts to meet the needs of all students motivated to pursue postsecondary CTE, including by addressing gender and racial inequities and improving access to CTE in rural communities.
  • Supported Forward-Thinking Approaches through the Mini-Grant Program - With more applications than in 2021, ECMC Foundation awarded eight projects $5,000 each for a total of $40,000. From a podcast exploring Black Americans’ experience with CTE to new research that investigates the cultural experience of a group of rural community college students in Wyoming, the range of proposed projects highlights the diversity of CTE.
  • Fostered connection among the growing network of Fellows – through a biannual newsletter, social media, and event receptions, the LC’s expanding network of current and alumni Fellows had more opportunities to hear about each other’s work across fields and make connections with new contacts in the field.
  • Surveyed the ECMC Foundation Fellows – ECMC Foundation Fellows, who hold a range of roles across the CTE sector, continue to emphasize the LC’s positive impact on their careers. Nearly eight in 10 survey respondents noted that the LC helped them understand community-level impact of CTE, 63% of respondents reported an elevated leadership profile, and 27% attained a promotion, new job, or desired career achievement.

Building on These Connections in 2023

Learnings from our work together in 2022 have positioned Fellows to accelerate momentum for expanding and improving the postsecondary CTE field in 2023. Based on what we have heard from Fellows, we plan to explore opportunities to spotlight the individual contributions of Fellows in the postsecondary CTE field, strengthen opportunities to innovatively address emerging challenges, and increase connections within and across Fellowships.

According to Fellows who attended this year’s convening, they find the annual event is one of few opportunities to connect with fellow change-oriented leaders in postsecondary CTE:

  • “This program has changed my life for the better in so many ways and continues to help me become a better leader every day. Thank you so much for putting together a great event.”
  • “This fellowship has allowed us to network and have the confidence to move further in our careers.”
  • “My roundtable discussion facilitator asked provocative questions resulting in a good conversation about who can be engaged in CTE educational programming.”

In addition to the positive feedback, we received many thoughtful recommendations to ensure that our convenings improve with each passing year. Site visits, tailored programming for different audiences, and alternative pitch competition formats are all under consideration as we begin to develop next year’s programming. Our ears are always open for additional suggestions at CTELC@ecmc.org!


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