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Celebrating Career and Technical Education Month

February 07, 2023

Dear ECMC Foundation Community,

As I prepare to close my career at ECMC Foundation and get ready to retire in just a few weeks, it’s particularly meaningful that it’s all happening during Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. This often-overlooked area of the higher education landscape is one I am most passionate about, and my wish is to leave behind a legacy that embraces this important higher education alternative to a four-year degree.

Postsecondary CTE has been a priority for ECMC Foundation since shortly after I joined the Foundation as president in 2014. Part of the reason why I wanted the Foundation to focus on CTE is because of its great potential to lead more individuals from underserved backgrounds along the path toward family-sustaining wages and economic mobility. We’ve been one of the few higher education philanthropies to focus on postsecondary CTE, and that’s part of the reason why we’ve been so committed—there’s an opportunity to have a dramatic and lasting impact.

When we developed the Foundation’s new strategic framework last year, we decided to make a shift in how we approach this critical component of our work. Whereas before, we funded CTE through our Career Readiness focus area, we have now embedded these projects across our initiatives and our strategically responsive grantmaking. What this means is that each of our initiatives will include projects devoted to advancing postsecondary CTE.

Our CTE Leadership Collaborative (LC) is one way, but not the only way, we direct our grantmaking to advance the field. Five years ago, we launched the LC to bring together diverse perspectives and allow leaders to share their knowledge and ideas. To that end, we fund six fellowship programs that offer professional development to ECMC Foundation Fellows in a variety of sectors.

Our Men of Color and Single Mother Student Success initiatives are both aimed at closing equity gaps to help key populations unlock their fullest potential, whether that’s through a four-year degree or high-quality CTE programs that prepare students for good jobs in fields like the construction trades, health care or technology. Further, our Basic Needs Initiative is designed to ensure all students, no matter where they are enrolled, have access to food, housing, mental health support and the supplies they need to successfully complete.

For those who do choose CTE, we want them to have the flexibility to build on their knowledge and training so they can advance in their careers and become leaders in their fields. We’re particularly interested in stackable credentials and academic pathways that allow students to assume greater levels of responsibility on the job. This is where our Transfer and Credit Mobility Initiative comes in. This initiative is concerned not only with improving transfer pathways between two- and four-year programs but also strives to ensure that students can leverage their non-linear postsecondary experiences into meaningful degrees and better-paying positions.

Here are a few recent examples of how postsecondary CTE is integrated across our portfolio:

  • Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA) received funding to assess the readiness of states and provide technical assistance to interested community colleges to expand equity-focused baccalaureate degrees in postsecondary CTE and gather data on program quality and student outcomes. Building on a set of promising practices, the goal is to support states and community colleges in implementing community college baccalaureate (CCB) degrees and identify indicators of program quality and high-value degrees offered in CTE CCB pathways.
  • The Urban Institute received funding from ECMC Foundation to create the CTE CoLab, a coalition of six partners working together to identify resources, disseminate promising practices, and provide technical assistance to help community and technical colleges (colleges) improve online CTE programs and center equity at the core of their efforts. The goal is to reduce equity gaps for Black and Latinx students and improve CTE program quality.
  • The Women’s Foundation for the State of Arizona launched Pathways for Single Moms program in partnership with local nonprofits and Pima Community College. The program, which was seeded by the Single Mother Student Success Initiative, offers wraparound services to help low-income single mother students pursue stable careers by earning career and technical education certificates aligned to well-paying, in-demand industries in Arizona. The program’s success led to funding from the Arizona state government to sustain the program.
  • AlliedUP, a partner through the Education Innovation Ventures portfolio, will expand and grow their cooperative staffing model within the allied health and nursing sector. The goal is to leverage their worker-owned cooperative model to bring high wages, job flexibility, ongoing education and opportunity to help allied health workers and nurses achieve career success.

This month and beyond, let’s remember that a two-year credential in carpentry is no less valuable than a four-year degree in the classics – they both matter! As I prepare to pass the reigns to ECMC Foundation’s next president, Jacob Fraire, I could not be more proud of our work to advance postsecondary CTE and am excited to see what the future will bring for our dedicated ECMC Foundation grantees and investees working toward systemic change for the sector.




Peter J. Taylor

President, ECMC Foundation

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