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Rokita Statement: Hearing on "Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs"
As prepared for delivery.

The Perkins Act provides federal funding to states to support career and technical education (or CTE) programs. These programs offer high school and community college students the opportunity to gain the skills and experience necessary to compete for jobs in a broad range of fields,  including health care, transportation, construction, and hospitality, just to name a few.

A number of states, school districts, and postsecondary institutions have implemented truly exceptional CTE programs. In Massachusetts, Worcester Technical High School has partnered with Tufts University to provide affordable animal care for low-income families. The university funds a resident veterinarian to operate an on-site clinic at the high school, and Worcester Tech students get to work at the clinic and obtain hands-on experience. We are fortunate to have with us today the principal of Worcester Tech who will share more information about this initiative during her testimony.

To prepare students for high-demand jobs in my home state of Indiana, Ivy Tech’s Ivy Institute of Technology offers automotive, manufacturing, welding, and other specialized training programs that allow students to learn new career skills in just 40 weeks. And in Wisconsin, Gateway Technical College offers more than 60 career education programs, including a Medical Assistant degree program that provides students with real-world clinical, administrative, and laboratory training.

However, despite these shining examples, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported more than 3.8 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.

As we begin our discussions on improving the Perkins Act, we must first assess the federal role in career and technical education. To receive funding through the Perkins Act, states with CTE programs must comply with a series of federal reporting requirements, some of which are duplicative to those under the Workforce Investment Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We cannot allow redundant federal mandates to make it harder for states to offer the career training opportunities our young people need.

We must also discuss ways to ensure CTE programs are effective. States and schools must have the flexibility to coordinate with the local business community to develop and implement programs that prepare students for in-demand jobs. Additionally, CTE coursework should provide students with opportunities to obtain relevant certificates, credits, and hands-on experience that will allow them to more seamlessly integrate into the workforce or get ahead in their quest to earn a postsecondary degree.

Recognizing the success of CTE programs depends upon effective teachers, we must examine ways to help states recruit and retain educators with valuable technical knowledge and experience. A 2010 study released by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium identified dozens of states that are struggling to attract CTE teachers in several key career sectors, including health sciences, manufacturing, agriculture, and the rapidly-growing STEM fields.

As we work to rebuild our economy after the recent recession, strengthening career and technical education programs will help put more Americans on the path to a prosperous future. In the coming weeks, this committee will discuss a range of proposals to improve the Perkins Act, including those offered in President Obama’s “Blueprint to Transform Career and Technical Education,” and I look forward to beginning that discussion today.



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