The Council on Occupational Education (hereinafter referred to as the Council or COE) came into existence initially in 1971 as the Commission on Occupational Education Institutions (COEI) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), a regional accrediting association that serves institutions in an 11-state region. Operating as a unit of SACS, COEI provided accreditation services to postsecondary occupational education institutions located, with a few special exceptions, in the SACS region.
In preparation for assuming a national scope, the Council was incorporated as a non-profit education organization under laws of the State of Georgia in June 1994. At the end of June 1995, the Council became a fully operational agency when all assets (staff, physical resources, and financial resources) and the membership of COEI were transferred from SACS to the Council. The Commission composed of 19 members functions as the governing board and the decision-making body for all accreditation actions of the Council.
Throughout its history, the Council and its predecessor agency have been recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a reliable authority on the quality of education offered by the institutions it has accredited. Its current scope of recognition is as a national institutional accrediting agency for the accreditation of non-degree-granting and applied associate degree-granting postsecondary occupational education institutions.
As articulated by its membership, the mission of the Council is “assuring quality and integrity in career and technical education.” The goals that represent the significant values and purposes to which the Council is dedicated are the following:
- To offer public assurance that accredited educational institutions provide quality instruction in career and technical education that facilitates learning by students and meeting the needs of the labor market.
- To provide guidance to institutions for the continual improvement of their educational offerings and related activities.
- To promote high ethical and educational standards for career and technical education.
- To enhance public understanding of career and technical education providers and of the value of the education and the credentials offered by these providers.
- To ensure that the accreditation process validates the achievement of learning and program objectives.
These goals embrace a commitment to integrity and credibility that are intended to result in accreditation by the Council being viewed as a nationally-honored seal of excellence for occupational education institutions. Through its accreditation process, the Council seeks to stimulate the following:
- validation of job skills;
- certification of skills for local, state, regional, and national application;
- portability of skill credentials;
- placement of graduates in jobs related to preparation received;
- facilitation of partnerships and consortia through which the United States can continue to compete successfully in the global economy; and
- linkages among employers, policymakers, business and industry, labor, and other parties with vital interests in technical education.
The mission and goals of the Council provide the framework from which the objectives of COE as an accrediting agency are derived. These objectives are the following:
- To foster excellence in the field of career and technical education by establishing standards and guidelines for evaluating institutional effectiveness.
- To encourage institutions to view self-assessment and evaluation as a continuous quality improvement process.
- To provide counsel and assistance to established and developing institutions, disseminating information between and among institutions that will stimulate improvement of educational programs and related activities.
- To ensure that the standards, policies, and procedures developed demonstrate recognition of and respect for the diversity of institutional missions.
- To ensure that the standards, policies, and procedures developed advance quality, creativity, cooperation, and performance.
- To require, as an integral part of the accrediting process, an institutional self-assessment that is analytical and evaluative and an on-site review by a visiting team of peers.
- To ensure that the processes of evaluation, policy-making, decision-making, and public participation accommodate the interests of the constituencies affected by the accrediting agency.
- To publish and otherwise make publicly available the (a) names of candidate and accredited institutions, (b) names and affiliations of members of its policy and decision-making bodies, and (c) names of its principal administrative personnel.
On November 8, 2008, the delegates at the Council’s annual meeting adopted the core values listed below. The core values provide the foundation for the Council’s mission, goals, and objectives.
- Trustworthiness – denotes honesty, integrity, and reliability. The metaphorical equivalent to having a good credit score.
- Transparency – implies openness, communication, and clear visibility. Describes an accreditation process or status that is not secretive or mystical.
- Accountability – implies being answerable and liable. Describes accredited institutions’ responsibility to students, regulatory agencies, and business and industry.
- Commitment – requires dedication of institutions, volunteers, Commissioners and staff. Denotes allegiance, loyalty, and obligation.
- Flexibility – the ability to adapt to both internal and external market changes while maintaining core values. Implies resilience and being open to modification and change.
- Innovation – a blueprint for expectations for the future that encourages perceptive and imaginative experimentation aimed at meeting the needs of constituents. Addresses the expanded learning economy, student preparedness, and cultural understanding.
- Collaboration – stakeholders working together toward a common goal of quality and integrity and making cooperative use of resources and best practices. Accomplished by institutions through networking and communities of practice.