Employer-Driven Innovations in CTE: Promise, Practice, & Opportunities for Policy

Employer-Driven Innovations in CTE: Promise, Practice, & Opportunities for Policy
Employer-Driven Innovations in CTE: Promise, Practice, & Opportunities for Policy


According to projections, in order to stay economically viable, our country will need to dramatically increase the working-age population that earns a high-quality postsecondary credential (degree, certificate, etc.) to meet future workforce needs. A growing body of research shows promise that high-quality career and technical education (CTE) pathways prepare students to be successful beyond a high school diploma in both postsecondary education and the workforce. In order to meet the growing demands of our workforce needs, our country must provide students with more exposure and opportunities to pursue sequenced CTE coursework in technical and career fields that provide students with an industry-recognized credential or credits towards a postsecondary degree.

This Capitol Hill forum, co-sponsored by MDRC, presented leading research on CTE and analysis of the evolving workforce needs which have influenced the development of innovative CTE strategies. Presenters shared both an overview of the research and innovative strategies in CTE at both the secondary and postsecondary levels that have strong employer partners and are informed by research.

Panelist Biographies

Stanley S. Litow
President Emeritus, IBM International Foundation
Vice President Emeritus, IBM Corporate Citizenship
Twitter: @citizenIBM

Stanley S. Litow is IBM’s Vice President Emeritus of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and President Emeritus of IBM’s Foundation. Under his leadership, beginning in 1993 IBM has been widely regarded as the global leader in Corporate Citizenship and praised for societal and environmental leadership, labor practices, and civic leadership. Under Mr. Litow, IBM has developed innovative voice recognition technology to help children and adults learn to read, a humanitarian virtual supercomputer to speed research on cancer and AIDS, and new digital imaging technology to improve water quality. Mr Litow developed a virtual supercomputer, World Community Grid that has provided massive computer power valued at over $100 million dollars to researchers around the world leading to improvements in critical health problems, like childhood brain cancer. Mr. Litow created an innovative model for supply chain management which has spread across U.S. and global information technology companies and has improved IBM’s environmental footprint and diversity programs as well. Mr. Litow helped create the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a grade 9 through 14 schools initiative to transform U.S. education and strengthen America’s economic competitiveness by connecting education to jobs. P-TECH has been profiled as a Harvard Business School Case Study, as a TIME Magazine cover story, and in a PBS special. He has served as Chair of the Governor’s Panel on Common Core Education Standards, on the President’s Welfare-to-Work Commission, on the President’s Urban Affairs Council, on the boards of the Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Initiative, The Citizens Budget Commission, and the Albert Shanker Institute. Currently, he also serves as a Governor’s appointee on the board of the State University of New York, the nation’s largest public university system where he chairs its Community College Committee.

Cate Swinburn
President, YouthForce NOLA
Twitter: @cateswin; @youthforcenola

Cate Swinburn is President of YouthForce NOLA, an education, business, and civic collaborative that prepares New Orleans public school students for successful pursuit of high-wage, high-demand career pathways. Cate has led YouthForce NOLA since its inception in 2015, during which time the number of New Orleans public school graduates earning industry recognized credentials has more than tripled; over 250 students have completed rigorous, paid internships in high-wage fields; and the conversation across the city is shifting to embrace career readiness programming as essential to preparing students for educational, economic, and life success. Prior to YouthForce NOLA, Cate served as President of Educate Now!, a non-profit in New Orleans that played an integral role in the continued reimagining of the traditional school district. Cate has also worked as an independent consultant – supporting non-profit organizations in developing strategic initiatives. Prior to moving to New Orleans in 2012, Cate served as the Chief of Data and Accountability with DC Public Schools, President and Executive Director of DC Public Education Fund, and Portfolio Director for The Fund for Public Schools in New York City, as well as teaching for five years in rural and urban Texas. Cate holds a Master of Public Administration from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, where she was a Dean’s Scholar, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish. Cate is an alumnus of both Teach For America and Education Pioneers.

Van Ton-Quinlivan
Vice Chancellor, Workforce & Digital Futures, California Community Colleges
Twitter: @WorkForceVan

Van Ton-Quinlivan is a nationally recognized thought leader in workforce development with a proven track record for driving large-scale organizational change. Appointed by the California Governor in 2011 as Vice Chancellor for the California Community Colleges, she oversees federal and state funding to advance the workforce mission of the State’s 114 community colleges, one of the largest and most complex higher education systems in the nation. In 2017, she assumed responsibility for the system’s edtech and data portfolio in addition. As Vice Chancellor, Ton-Quinlivan spearheaded the creation of Doing What MATTERS for Jobs and the Economy (doingwhatMATTERS.cccco.edu), a unifying framework to improve workforce outcomes for California’s 2.1 million community college students and fuel strong regional economies. During her tenure, her administrative responsibility has grown from $100 million to $900 million as a result of her ability to inspire others toward a common vision. Named a White House Champion of Change in 2013, she has been quoted in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, and has contributed to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, U.S. News & World Report, the Fresno Bee, and others. Ton-Quinlivan is a board member of National Skills Coalition and the California Council on Science & Technology, and she serves on the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. Prior to her current role, Ton-Quinlivan oversaw workforce development for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). She holds degrees from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Georgetown University.

Mary Visher
Senior Associate, MDRC
Twitter: @MDRC_News

Mary Visher is a Senior Associate with MDRC. She either leads or serves as senior advisor on most of MDRC’s Career Technical Education (CTE) related projects in both the K12 and postsecondary domains. With over three decades of experience in public policy research, much of her research experience focuses on policies and programs that combine education and workforce development goals and strategies. As such, she has conducted and reviewed research on programs that involve career pathways, career academies, work-based learning, employer-driven models, and 21st century skills programs. Her research runs the gamut from providing formative feedback to inform program design and implementation, to randomized controlled trials to measure impacts. For example, her current projects includes an implementation study of CareerWise Colorado, a youth apprenticeship program, a study of YouthForce NOLA , and a project with the New World of Work program, an intervention designed to help community college students learn 21st century skills. She has authored many reports and papers on CTE and related topics and contributed to many advisory groups. Visher holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Additional Resources

P-TECH Website
P-TECH School Model Overview
MDRC’s Career and Technical Education Projects
Taking Innovation to Scale: Growing Makers for the STEM Economy
YouthForce NOLA



The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.