WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 13, 2016
For far too long, there has been a discrepancy in what students are learning in the classroom and what employers say they need in the workplace. The passage of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
in 2014 was an important step for the millions of Americans who are looking for work and for the employers who have job opportunities that remain unfilled due to the “skills gap.” However, great jobs are still going unfilled, Americans are still missing out on rewarding careers, and many businesses are still suffering.
The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act
has provided federal support to state and local career and technical education programs for more than 30 years. H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act
, updates the law to reflect today’s economic needs and the challenges that students and workers currently face.
In particular, I’m pleased that the bill streamlines the number of performance measures for postsecondary programs and aligns them with the performance measures in WIOA, retaining that law’s precedent-setting accountability standards that let taxpayers and lawmakers see clearly which programs work—and which programs don’t.
This bipartisan bill goes a long way toward ensuring that individuals who pursue a technical education have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
However, I believe it’s time we acknowledge that all education is career education and stop dividing the path to a high school degree into two tracks.
Students pursue education to develop the necessary skills to find a job, preferably a career, in a chosen field. It’s the same objective whether the student is pursuing a medical degree at an Ivy League university or taking automotive performance courses at the local community college.
Unfortunately, there is an unnecessary stigma attached to career and technical education. It’s too often referred to as the “other” track, with the incorrect implication that it’s the path individuals take if they won’t be able to handle the rigors of college. In reality, students who pursue CTE complete a diverse curriculum where they learn important skills for succeeding in the workplace, such as problem-solving, research, time management, and critical thinking. They are more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates than their college-bound counterparts. We should be celebrating that success and studying how we translate it across the board.
But as long as we have two educational tracks, we have a problem in the way people perceive those who choose career and technical education. We need to shift our perspective away from the idea that every student must attend an expansive and expensive four-year program to succeed in the workforce. Educational success is about more than just a degree. It’s about quantifiable skills that employers need in their employees.
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