WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 17, 2016
Through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
, the federal government supports state and local programs designed to prepare high school and community college students for technical careers. These programs offer students the knowledge and training they need to compete in the workforce and hold jobs in a wide range of fields. In other words, they offer opportunities for young men and women to pursue a lifetime of success.
This is an important conversation to have now
because an anemic economy has made good-paying jobs hard to come by. In fact, today, millions of Americans are struggling to find employment, and millions of others who need full-time jobs can only find part-time work. For young people entering this kind of job market, having the right skills and experience is essential.
Career and technical education programs can provide these critical tools, and we have to ensure federal support for these programs is delivered in the most efficient and effective manner possible. As we have learned in recent years—through hearings and other activities—there are certainly opportunities to improve the law. This is an important area where Republicans and Democrats should work together to deliver reforms that will strengthen support for all
Americans, but particularly young
That collaboration is exactly what happened in 2014 with the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
. We worked together to help put Americans back to work by improving an outdated and inefficient job training system. Last year, a similar commitment to finding common ground guided our efforts to improve K-12 education. The result was the Every Student Succeeds Act
, a law that empowers parents, teachers, and state and local leaders to deliver the quality education every child deserves.
It’s time we applied the same approach to strengthening career and technical education. But more importantly, we need to apply many of the same principles reflected in our efforts to improve K-12 education and workforce development. What does that mean in practical terms?
It means empowering state and local leaders to innovate and respond to the unique economic and education needs in their communities. They know better than anyone—certainly better than any of us in Washington—what it takes to meet the needs of their students, workers, and employers.
It means equipping students with the skills they need for today’s in-demand jobs—not the skills that were needed in yesterday’s
workforce. We have to make sure federal resources are aligned with the needs of the local workforce and the demands of new and emerging businesses.
It also means strengthening transparency and accountability, providing parents, students, business leaders, community stakeholders, and taxpayers the information they need to hold their programs accountable. It isn’t good enough for students to simply complete a program; once they’ve done so, they should be ready to further their education or pursue a good-paying job.
Finally, it means ensuring a limited federal role. Restricting the federal government’s ability to intervene in matters that should be left up to the states will enable state and local leaders to spend less time meeting the demands of Washington and more time meeting the needs of people in their local communities.
These are the kinds of reforms that we know work; the kinds of reforms that will help students succeed in the classroom and
in the future. For many individuals, entering the workforce can be scary enough on its own. For the young men and women entering today’s
workforce, a slew of technological advances, global changes, and economic challenges make finding a good job even more daunting.
That’s why it’s so important for us to continue working together to ensure students have what they need to achieve success. Strengthening career and technical education should be the next step in that important effort.