Announcing winners of the Catalyzing Career & Technical Education Competition

Meredith Segal February 24, 2021

February is National Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month®, an opportunity to celebrate and strengthen CTE programs that currently serve 12.8 million American students at the secondary and post-secondary levels. 

CTE programs have won bipartisan support as a result of their powerful impact on students and on our economy. Ninety-four percent of students with CTE concentrations graduate from high school, compared to the national adjusted cohort graduation rate of 85%.1 CTE offers a critical pathway to more than 30 million jobs that pay over $55,000 per year and require less than a bachelor’s degree.2 According to a 2017 report, the skills gap is resulting in millions of unfilled positions per year, including 2 million positions in manufacturing and up to 2.5 million in allied health occupations.

In 2016, Social Finance received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education to identify and support effective CTE programs serving high-need youth. Since then, we have partnered with JFF to help these programs improve their services, assess labor market needs, and scale up by accessing innovative outcomes-based financing vehicles.

Social Finance and JFF recently concluded the final round of the Catalyzing CTE Through Pay for Success Competition and are preparing to launch collaborations with the two winners: Education Service Center Region 19 in El Paso, Texas and the School District of Palm Beach County in Palm Beach County, Florida. 

Education Service Center (ESC) Region 19 is one of twenty regional service centers located throughout the state that function as a link between the districts and charter schools they serve and the Texas Education Agency. ESC Region 19 cultivates collaborations between post-graduation technical schools and high school CTE programs with three school districts in the El Paso Borderplex region. The El Paso Borderplex region is the second-largest binational community in the United States. With more than three million people located in this region, spanning two countries and three states, there were approximately 177,788 students in the El Paso region alone during the 2018-2019 school year; the student body is overwhelmingly Hispanic and comes from families who are economically disadvantaged.

Even as ESC Region 19 seeks to expand opportunities for students, employers are struggling to find talent. Workforce Solutions Borderplex, a local partner for American Job Center, reported in 2019 that 46% of employers reported difficulty in recruiting individuals that met the needs of their particular organization. ESC 19 wrote in its application that “The Pay for Success model will act as a catalyst by helping us promote and recruit students for the emerging biomedical field.”

The School District of Palm Beach County is the nation’s tenth-largest school district, serving 176,000 students across 180 schools. The School District seeks to build new pathways into advanced manufacturing by offering the Maker Apprenticeship, a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Registered Apprenticeship that is competency-based, flexible, and aligned with high-skill career pathways in diverse manufacturing industries. The School District has established a broad network of partners including multiple employers and Hacklab, Inc., a non-profit community workforce intermediary.

Matthew Rocco, President of the South Florida Manufacturers Association, wrote in support of the project: “Bringing advanced manufacturing career, technical, and adult programming, including the U.S. DOL Registered Apprenticeship program, to the trio of [School District of Palm Beach County] schools in Riviera Beach will meet a long-overdue need to increase high-quality career, technical, and adult education in Palm Beach County. It will further serve to jump-start the broad-based inclusion of under-represented populations in economic opportunities.”

With guidance from Social Finance and JFF, our partners in El Paso and Palm Beach will explore how outcomes-based financing approaches could help build CTE pathways in their respective regions. Through these new cross-sector collaborations, Social Finance will support innovative models to help meet our nation’s workforce needs.

Learn more about the competition >


1 Perkins Collaborative Resource Network, customized Consolidated Annual Report data; U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Consolidated State Performance Report, 2010-11 through 2017-18.
2 Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Good Jobs that Pay Without a BA, 2017; Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Three Educational Pathways to Good Jobs: High School, Middle Skills, and Bachelor’s Degree, 2018.