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#CTE Graduate: I Am the American Dream

The Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today held a hearing to discuss ways to strengthen the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Also known as the Perkins Act, the law supports state and local career and technical education (CTE) programs that help more Americans develop the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.

“An anemic economy has made good-paying jobs hard to come by,” Chairman Kline said. “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.”

Witnesses echoed these sentiments, highlighting the important role CTE plays in preparing students for the future. Paul Tse, a CTE graduate from Thomas Edison High School in Silver Spring, Md., shared his personal experience, explained how CTE set him on the pathway to success, and emphasized the need to rally support for such programs.

“It is time that students, guidance counselors, educators, parents, and the American public recognize the fulfilling and lucrative careers that can be achieved in construction and skilled trades,” he said. “We must work to remove any stigma that exists that choosing a CTE program over a traditional four year college is somehow ‘settling’ … I am the American Dream. I urge all of you to ensure that every child in America has the same opportunities I did.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who started the Governor’s Career and Technical Education Academies while serving as governor of Virginia, agreed with Tse saying, “CTE is a very important pathway for life’s success and there should not be any stigma surrounding these programs in our society—not in our K-12 schools or in the mindset of parents of guidance counselors.”

He went on to say, “Career and technical education programs are proven solutions for creating jobs, retraining workers—including older workers who need to find new skills so they can be successful and fill open jobs in the market—and ensuring students from of all ages and walks of life are ready for a successful career.”

To help improve this vital support for students, witnesses urged the committee to apply to the Perkins Act many of the same principles Congress adopted when it passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

“Your emphasis on requiring greater business community involvement in state workforce development decisions is proving very helpful,” said Jason Bates, manager of administration at the Toyota Bodine plant in Jackson, Tenn. He went on to say aligning CTE programs with the needs of local business communities would “help make the workforce system more efficient and easier to navigate for employers interested in lending help."

Monty Sullivan, president of Louisiana Community and Technical College System, expressed similar views, saying, “The most successful career and technical education efforts have strong partnerships and substantive industry contributions—both financial and non-financial. These partnerships should be a basic tenet of Perkins.”

Chairman Kline agreed and pledged his commitment to advancing commonsense reforms that will help improve career and technical education. “It’s so important for us to continue working together to ensure students have what they need to achieve success,” concluded Chairman Kline. “Strengthening career and technical education should be the next step in that important effort.”


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