(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — A new report from PA Schools, Keystone Research Center and Children First examining the challenges and opportunities for career and technical education (CTE) in the Commonwealth has been released ahead of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first budget address.

The report, “Meeting the Demands for New Workers- Investing in Career Related Learning for High School Students,” explains how the state can improve these programs by bringing them up to date, funding them in a sustainable way and finding which programs are popular with students.

That also includes dual enrollment programs — taking college courses to go along with high school courses.

Only 6.42% of Pennsylvania high school students are currently enrolled in some kind of CTE program, which ranks 36th nationwide and behind all six of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states.

“Data shows that students with exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate from high school, gain employment and earn higher wages. Additionally, these students are just as likely to pursue two-year and four-year degrees than their non-CTE peers, and those who benefit from CTE the most are the ones who are most in need — boys and students from low-income households,” said Donna Cooper, co-author of the report and executive director of Children First.

The report identifies local school districts having to create and maintain these programs and how they are funded as important factors for low enrollment. Those local school districts account for nearly 89% of total available funds, with the state funds only accounting for 8.5% and federal funds making up 3% of total costs.

To meet the governor’s goal of “drastically increasing” CTE and boosting enrollment, the report recommends a severe increase in funding across the board. Those recommendations include:

  • $200 million increase in CTE funding
  • $11 million annual increase in funding for equipment to career and technical centers (CTCs) and other CTE programs
  • Funding for a statewide intermediary like the Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, which has supported successful state career-related learning and dual enrollment strategies in Illinois for the past 11 years
  • $10 million for competitive grants to increase dual enrollment
  • $1 million to allow $1,000 per student for the start-up costs associated with increasing high school pre-apprenticeship enrollment annually
  • $8 million for direct subsidies or tax credits to strengthen business-led and business- and labor-led sector partnerships that can partner with CTE, ensuring that more high school pre-apprenticeships and other career pathways connect with living-wage careers and meet employers’ skill needs as well as increasing post-secondary enrollment

The full report is available on the Keystone Research Center’s website.