WASHINGTON, D.C. | November 19, 2013
A few weeks ago the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education convened a hearing to examine the benefits of career and technical education, or CTE. In addition to highlighting innovative CTE programs that are helping students compete for in-demand jobs, the hearing allowed us to identify a number of challenges facing career and technical education.
For example, redundant reporting requirements and poorly aligned performance metrics can stymie the development of innovative new CTE courses. These are often the very same mandates that create hurdles for higher education institutions and K-12 schools, which we have discussed at length as part of our efforts to improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act.
Additionally, the hearing underscored the importance of ensuring students have access to hands-on training that is relevant to the area workforce. Testifying on behalf of the Louisiana Pelican Chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors, Alvin Bargas told a compelling story about the severe lack of skilled construction workers in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Through coordination with business and education leaders, the state has since developed targeted CTE programs that are helping to rebuild the local construction industry – and the Gulf Coast.
Finally, witnesses stressed the importance of better aligning secondary and postsecondary career and technical education. To get the most out of CTE courses, students should have opportunities to earn relevant credentials and certificates at an accelerated rate through dual and concurrent enrollments. Students should also be encouraged to learn new technologies and innovative practices that will increase their value in the 21st century workplace.
As Dr. Sheila M. Harrity, principal of Worcester Technical High School in Massachusetts, noted at the hearing, “Successful technical schools require strong links to the community, business and industry, and academic institutions.” Dr. Harrity described her school as “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.”
That focus on coordination is exactly what we should strive to encourage through the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. We have made great progress this year in advancing proposals to modernize and reform both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Workforce Investment Act. It’s time to build on that progress and further integrate our schools and workplaces with a reauthorization of the Perkins Act.
We are fortunate to have with us today an impressive panel of witnesses who can share their views on the policy changes that could strengthen career and technical education, including the president of the IBM International Foundation.
As you may know, IBM serves as a lead industry partner for the Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, known as P-TECH. Located in Chicago and New York, PTECH schools offer an integrated high school and college curriculum that focuses on the STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering, and math. Students who graduate from P-TECH earn both their high school diploma and an associate degree in applied science, and receive priority consideration for entry-level positions with IBM.
The P-TECH model has been heralded by policy and education leaders. In fact, President Obama recently visited a P-TECH school in Brooklyn to discuss the administration’s blueprint for reform of the Perkins Act. Their proposal offers a solid starting point for bipartisan negotiations, with an emphasis on industry coordination and state involvement in the development of CTE programs.
While we may not agree on every aspect of the blueprint, there are key areas that are ripe for agreement. However, I am discouraged by this morning’s news that President Obama plans to announce a new national competitive grant program aimed at career education – without any input from Congress. Another program will only further muddle the system at a time when we need to make smart, structural reforms to improve CTE programs under the Perkins Act.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in hopes we can craft smart, bipartisan proposals to strengthen career and technical education in America. I would now like to recognize the senior Democrat member of the committee, Mr. Miller, for his opening remarks.
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