AWFS Education Chair Meets with Legislator on CTE
In September, AWFS Education Committee Chair, Don Bigelow, of Vero Software, attended an exclusive informal dinner event with Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) to discuss industry involvement with Career Technical Education (CTE). The invitation was extended to AWFS by the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), one of the largest educational organizations that advocates for support and funding of skilled trade coursework in public schools. Ms. Foxx is anticipated to be the next Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
Dr. Foxx provided an update on the re-authorization of the Perkins Act –arguably the longest-standing bill in support of CTE and the largest dollars. The bill passed the House by a margin of 405-5; it now awaits a vote in the Senate. She suggested pushing senators to make this a priority.
“During our dinner conversation, one of the most talked about topics was ‘Image,’ says Bigelow. He came prepared to share with everyone the “Meet the New Face on Manufacturing” posters that AWFS has created. “It was the perfect opportunity to show the group what we are doing to ignite interest in careers in our industry.”
Bigelow also informed Ms. Foxx of the development of a national wood training center in Colorado. The idea was first floated to industry by exemplary high school teacher Dean Mattson, who is now working closely with Superintendent Tim Kistler in the Peyton, CO school district to realize the vision. In addition to the center being a post-secondary option for high school students (17 school districts will be involved), it will also be a place for adults and veterans who are looking to re-train for careers in advanced wood manufacturing. Stiles Machinery has committed to well over $500,000 worth of equipment along with many other tool and manufacturing companies supporting the endeavor. The priority of the tech center is to work specifically with industry to address current needs. The multi-trades training center will lead out with woodworking. It is slated to open in August of 2017.
“Dr. Foxx was a delight to listen to and discuss these issues with,” says Bigelow. “She was most adamant about not waiting for Congress to act and stressed that industry should move forward in whatever ways possible to promote and put into place, CTE programs.”
Got Ten Seconds? You Can Actively Support Workforce Development
There is a huge groundswell around support for careers in manufacturing. More and more companies and trade organizations are making their voices heard on the issue of workforce development and support for the skilled trades in public schools (Career Technical Education, or, CTE for short). The spotlight is returning to the merit of hands-on job training and the wood products manufacturing industry needs to be part of the action. Schools are actively reinvigorating their skills classes, creating academies and re-training teachers and personnel. State and federal government are investing considerable sums in career-ready coursework. Legislators are issuing bills that will support and fund CTE programs and the Department of Labor is awarding money for expanded apprenticeship models in various fields. Wood manufacturing, like many other sectors, will lose considerable numbers of employees as baby boomers continue to retire.
Here is just one easy, quick thing you can do. If you are a member of the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM), you can contact them and ask to be notified when Congress votes on CTE legislation—which they are now actively following. They can send you a link and all you have to do is enter your name and address and the link automatically populates with your legislators. You can sign on to a pre-drafted letter (or contribute a few edits if you like) and hit SEND and you have let your congressional representatives know that you want them to support the CTE legislation. (BTW, this is a non-partisan issue.) You can also contact AWFS to be sent the link –either NAM’s or one that comes from the educational groups, Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) or SkillsUSA – both are national CTE organizations. To contact AWFS, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know you want to receive the alerts to support CTE and workforce development—for the betterment of all of us in the industry!
NOTE! ACTE has just created an industry blog that is accessible by about 30,000 CTE professionals. AWFS has the first entry on the new blog. Check it out here and consider submitting your own comments that will be seen by educators across the country!