With bipartisan support, the Senate has passed legislation on July 25, that would update and expand support for state and local career and technical education programs to help high school and college students prepare for careers in a broad range of industries. The bill was introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) on May 4, 2017 and passed by the House of Representatives on June 22 of the same year.
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 and provides funds for students who are looking for more career-oriented education after high school and potentially feeding new talent to underserved job fields, such as diesel technicians.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill, having tweeted his support for it on July 24:
On the heels of the VERY successful launch of the @WhiteHouse National Council for the American Worker, Congress should reauthorize #PerkinsCTE and ensure the American workforce remains stronger than EVER! #Jobs #Workforce— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
A key aspect of this bill is that it will increase the control that states and local governments have in creating programs and gaining funds, reducing the influence of the federal government. The bill simplifies the process for states and local authorities when applying for federal funding for CTE programs. It also allows states to set requirements for performance measures and eligibility and determine how it aligns with local in-demand jobs.
States wil be required to use at least 90% of their federal allotment from the previous year on the condition that it be reduced if it isn’t used. But the state can decide how those funds will be used and whether they will go to expanding options or boosting funding to already existing programs.
The Department of Labor estimates that only 0.3% of American workers go the route of apprenticeships to start careers and most of them start late – the average age is 28- rather than coming out of high school with that plan.
With the unemployment rate currently hovering at or below pre-recession levels the Trump administration has made apprenticeships a priority as a way to connect millions of unemployed with jobs in fields that still have shortages and high demand.
Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Congress voiced support for the efforts of congress to pass the bill.
“For our economy to continue to grow, U.S. workers and students must continue to learn and acquire the skills they need to succeed,” said Bradley. “Because of this legislation, career and technical education programs will continue to help students succeed in the workforce of today and learn the skills for the workforce of tomorrow.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also applauded the passing of the Perkins Act.
“This is an important day for America's students, workers and our econom," said DeVos. "Congress came together to expand educational pathways and opportunities and give local communities greater flexibility in how best to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow. I look forward to seeing President Trump sign this bill into law and make yet another important investment in our future.”