Report Shows Opportunities to Address Regional Workforce Needs with Appropriate School Career and Technical Education Programs
BENTONVILLE, Ark. (January 25, 2024) – A new report highlights Northwest Arkansas' top performing schools in career and technical education (CTE). It provides recommendations for advancing those programs and better-aligning workforce needs and K-12 education opportunities in Northwest Arkansas.
Currently, many Northwest Arkansas school districts offer a range of CTE courses for students to pursue based on their interests. These include career pathways as diverse as robotics and automation to machining and welding. The Walton Family Foundation engaged Insightful Education Solutions to analyze CTE pathway offerings to better understand the quality and accessibility of these programs across the region. Insightful is a resource for schools and organizations looking for support to maximize their impact on student learning.
"High-quality CTE programs lead to advancement and increase economic mobility when they align with regional economic needs. They also provide K-12 students with the knowledge, skills and credentials they need for future success,” said Katherine Robinson, Walton Family Foundation program officer. “The report shows enthusiasm from industry and education partners and presents shared solutions that benefit the entire region."
Insightful convened an advisory group and researched best practices from other states to form a shared definition of high-quality CTE pathways.
Insightful’s findings confirmed a significant misalignment between workforce needs and completion of the related program. The top five completed K-12 CTE pathways in Northwest Arkansas are in the agricultural field. Just three of the region's top 10 completed CTE pathways align with high-demand, high-skill and higher-wage occupations.
Additional findings include:
- Healthcare, business management and manufacturing are the top three industry sectors in Northwest Arkansas. with the most projected growth in the next five years.
- Too few CTE completers are meeting pathway quality metrics. These metrics vary widely across the most completed programs of study. Early postsecondary credits are the most achieved. But overall quality metric attainment by CTE completers is still relatively low.
- There is overwhelming enthusiasm and support for CTE despite challenges in alignment and quality. There is also a desire for more diverse and better offerings.
- Obstacles to overcome include logistical challenges, shortage of qualified staff and a lack of adequate program funding. 100% of educators surveyed believe CTE is as important as math, English, social studies and science.
Insightful recommends Northwest Arkansas leaders focus on building out CTE programming in healthcare, advanced manufacturing, marketing/distribution/logistics, building and construction, business management, administration and education and training.
“Developing consistent regional CTE pathways will require cross-sector communication, shared resources, economies of scale and a common understanding of needs from industry leaders,” said Robinson.
About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter and Instagram.