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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

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Rokita: Strengthening CTE Programs will Help Young Americans Gain an Edge in the Workforce

The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today convened a hearing entitled, “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs.” During the hearing, members listened as expert witnesses described the benefits of career and technical education (CTE) initiatives, while also highlighting ways to improve CTE as part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

“A number of states, school districts, and postsecondary institutions have implemented truly exceptional CTE programs,” Rep. Rokita said, pointing to successful programs in Massachusetts, Indiana, and Wisconsin. “However, despite these shining examples, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported more than 8 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are still looking for jobs. By strengthening the career and technical education programs funded under the Perkins Act, we can help more of these young people gain an edge in the workforce.”

In Louisiana, CTE programs will be integral to ensure the state’s rapidly expanding construction industry has a skilled workforce. However, too few high schools offer sufficient CTE opportunities alongside traditional academic coursework.

Alvin Bargas, president of Louisiana’s Pelican Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, said, “Public high schools almost exclusively focus on the four-year college prep curriculum for all students. While this pathway is important, students should be offered opportunities to learn skills that prepare them for the many high paying, in-demand careers that do not require a bachelor’s degree.”

However, Mr. Bargas warned, “The expansion of… CTE options should never come at the expense of academic rigor or quality instruction and must clearly align with industry workforce needs and postsecondary credentials.”

At Massachusetts’ Worcester Technical High School (WTHS), rigorous academic coursework and hands-on work experience help make sure students are career and college ready, said WTHS principal Dr. Sheila M. Harrity. “[Students] graduate with all academic requirements and industry-recognized national certifications,” Dr. Harrity explained. This is due in part to WTHS’ strong relationships with more than 350 industry advisors in the local business community who help shape the programs and provide advice on equipment, certifications, licensure, and careers.

“Successful technical schools require strong links to the community, business and industry, and academic institutions,” Dr. Harrity said. “WTHS is part of the economic engine, coordinating the needs and desires of industry for a highly-trained, adaptable workforce with the needs and desires of our students to secure good paying, rewarding jobs in the fields of their choice.”

Frank Britt, CEO of distance-education provider Penn Foster, described the changing landscape of career and technical education and offered suggestions to improve CTE programs. “Existing legislation is no longer sufficiently comprehensive to the changing dynamics of today’s educational marketplace. Changing the perception of CTE careers and embracing technology are just a few of the ways we can positively alter the face of vocational training,” Mr. Britt stated, emphasizing the importance of developing training programs that will prepare Americans for the jobs that will drive our economy in the years to come.

Rep. Rokita concluded, “In the coming weeks, this committee will discuss a range of proposals to improve the Perkins Act. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft smart policies that will help put more Americans on the path to a prosperous future.”

To read witness testimony, opening statements, or watch an archived webcast of today’s hearing, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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