“Providing More Students a Pathway to Success by Strengthening Access to Career and Technical Education”

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“Providing More Students a Pathway to Success by Strengthening Access to Career and Technical Education”

Providing More Students a Pathway to Success by Strengthening Access to Career and Technical Education

U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce

February 28, 2017 (courtesy of LobbyIt)

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Todd Rokita (R-IN), held a hearing to discuss strategies for expanding access to career and technical education.

Witnesses: 

  • Glenn Johnson – Manufacturing Workforce Development Leader, BASF Corporation
  • Janet Goble – Director of Career and Technical Education, Canyons School District
  • Mimi Lufkin – CEO, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)
  • Mike Rowe – “Dirty Jobs,” CEO, mikeroweWORKS

Opening Statements:

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN)

  • Rokita believes the Perkins Reauthorization Act is a worthwhile investment. He asserted that 11 million students benefit from these kinds of programs, meanwhile 60% of manufacturing jobs remain vacant.
  • He then claimed the talent shortage would result in a total of 6 million vacant positions by 2020. 84% of manufacturers agree this shortage exists.
  • The Representative believes the law needs to reflect these current educational and economic realities.
  • He believes career and technical education (CTE) policy needs to be updated in order to: provide more students with the opportunity engage in CTE, empower state and local leaders, provide innovative learning opportunities (including partnerships with local employers), and set accountability standards.
  • He hopes bipartisan reform efforts regarding the Perkins Reauthorization Act will continue to provide students with the chance to participate in, and benefit from, CTE.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)

  • Polis noted that 65% of jobs in our economy are going to require training beyond high school in the next 5 years.
  • He added that in his home state of Colorado, school districts receive $1,000 for each student who: gets career credentials in high demand fields, completes workplace training programs, or takes AP Computer Science. Schools in that area are also providing high school students with the opportunity to receive associate degree credits. Public private partnerships have been crucial.
  • He thinks the Perkins Reauthorization Act is one of the most successful programs at: removing barriers to college entry, reducing remediation, increasing the rate of students who pursue post-secondary education, and cost effectively introducing employable talent to the marketplace.
  • He noted that according to the Northern Colorado Labor Council, many apprenticeships that lead to good jobs remain vacant.
  • He believes in strong career readiness programs. He noted that funding for these programs are at historic lows.
  • He noted that in the Perkins Reauthorization Act, the Committee has the opportunity to: verify each program’s quality, provide equity, meet academic and labor market demands for economic growth, serve historically underserved communities, and provide industry credentials for high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand jobs.
  • He noted the need for bipartisan accountability, transparency, and quality indicators.
  • He noted the need for increased collaboration and flexibility with state and local officials while maintaining the authority to ensure the bill is meeting its goals.

Glenn Johnson

  • He began by stating that his company contributed $4.5 million to the communities it’s located in last year.
  • He noted that his company collaborates with schools at every level, and Perkins helps make that happen.
  • He stated that an important part of the school-to-career pipeline is making kids want to seek jobs in the field you’re in, which isn’t happening with technical careers.
  • His company aims to drive CTE awareness by working with nested educational, governmental, and industrial partners. His company also works to ensure there are enough well-trained and productive students in the school-to-career pipeline.
  • He stated that since students aren’t showing interest in, or are otherwise unfamiliar with, manufacturing, his company hosts a kid’s lab, as well as science and tech academies to drive awareness.

Janet Goble

  • She noted that her program provides over 35 areas of study and is paired with appropriate coursework, giving students the chance to acquire industry credentials, get a career, or go onto post-secondary education.
  • She stated that her school has overwhelming support from local businesses, giving them the chance to: create the Utah Diesel Technician Pathway, work in the Statewide Building Construction initiative, start partnerships in medical manufacturing innovation, and look into information technology partnerships in the future.
  • She noted that these efforts start young, with career days beginning in elementary school. Then they go onto a You Go Girls conference in middle school to introduce young girls to nontraditional professions, progressing to field trips, work-based learning experiences, Pathways to Professions Expos, and shadowing experiences in high school.
  • She cautioned that Perkins helps fund these efforts, and without those funds, a lot of these programs would become impossible.

Mimi Lufkin

  • She noted that 13 million students are enrolled in CTE nationwide, and it carries a positive return on investment: raising wages, making students more likely to go to college, making college more affordable, and making students more academically successful.
  • She argued that the Perkins Act makes the workforce more diverse.
  • She noted that increasing access to quality CTE for all students (especially underrepresented students) needs to be a priority in federal policy.
  • She noted that by 2024, 2 million middle skill jobs in IT, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, and logistics will need to be filled.
  • She argued that fields with gender gaps (such as information technology and health) cannot afford to have half of the population essentially unavailable to them.
  • She noted that under provisions in the Perkins Act, her company has been working with state and local officials to help fix these problems.
  • She argued that it is critical for the federal element to be maintained so CTE meets the needs of the military, businesses, and workers competing on a global scale.

 Mike Rowe

  • He noted the need to challenge the image of CTE and what a “good” job is.
  • He believes that millions of jobs will remain vacant if this image does not change.
  • He stated that it is critical to change the way we market a 4-year degree as the “only” or “best” option, especially in the presence of a widening skills gap.
  • He believes parents and guidance counselors, though well intended, perpetuate this problem.
  • He noted that vocational education is absent from high schools and this poses a problem to our economic security.
  • He noted that the outstanding debt is $1.3 trillion, a bubble (coupled with rising tuition) that is sure to burst.
  • He used the case of Springfield, Massachusetts (a town with high unemployment and many available trades jobs) to illustrate this disconnect.

 Q&A

 Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC):

  • How do your educational partnerships help small and midsized employers meet their workforce needs?
    • Johnson: We look for our corporate partners to work with us. The last thing we would want is disconnect between their learning outcomes and what we need to hire. We can’t be the only ones at the table. We seek them out so we can work together and make them a part of everything we do related to CTE.
  • What challenges have you faced when trying to expand the opportunity for work-based learning experiences? How have you tried to overcome these?
  • Goble: It has been a challenge, and part of that challenge is based on the number of industry partners you have. We’ve also had all-school career fairs that allow all students to interface with industry. We also have our Pathways to Professions Expos, which provides these opportunities as well. In a perfect world, we’d have every high school student do a job shadow for a half day, but that’s just not practical.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)

  • Does the present CTE legislation require basic education is achieved rather than an alternative to learning what you need to know?
  • Goble: The current Perkins legislation has an extremely strong provision for the integration of academic/CTE preparation. There is an academic performance measure for secondary students with technical skill attainment included. This is a critical part of current legislation.
  • Does this need to be improved?
  • Goble: Improvements always help. The legislation that was passed by this body last fall also continued and strengthened that to some degree, but the issue here is to ensure states and local educational agencies are collecting disaggregated data by special student status to insure achievement gaps are noticed and addressed. The legislation also included needs assessment language in it that was a great step in the right direction.
  • How do you focus on those most likely to be unemployed to make sure money is targeted properly?
  • Goble: The way the allocation process works now includes student population and income levels as part of the formula. That is an important component because schools that have the highest percentage of low-income students might also have the highest need for CTE education so they can reap the benefits of higher wage potential and economic self-sufficiency. Provisions that are also critical include accountability measures that use disaggregated data for student performance and incentives through the required usage of funds section that prioritize students who are at risk. Students who are at risk are often sent to alternative schools, and these schools do not have the best access to CTE. That is a major problem. CTE is a drop-out prevention asset, and it needs to be widely available regardless of the systems they are in.

Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)

  • How do we convince young people that technical programs are a great option?
  • Rowe: You have to make it aspirational and “cool” again. It can’t be this thing seen as a consolation prize anymore. It used to be the “vocational arts,” so we literally took the art out of the vocation. We were left with some version of drudgery. Not much is visually appealing about the vocations anymore, and the parents and guidance counselors are on the front lines of this discussion. The challenge matters to; my foundation focuses on the work ethic. You have to make a case for why you deserve these opportunities, and then enthusiastically advance.

Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA):

  • He is a major supporter of CTE, but believes that sometimes the federal government misses the mark.
  • He believes that the best way to do this is listen to the state and local authorities and allow the employers in the area to drive the conversation about skills needs.
  • He doesn’t want money to be spent and watered down challenging through bureaucracy to create students that have skills that aren’t applicable to needs in their areas and fields.

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN):

  • What advice do you have in changing the public perceptions?
  • Rowe: We need to find opportunities to showcase people who have benefited from programs like Project Jumpstart (a pre-apprenticeship program for people in inner cities focusing on nonviolent offenders). In the ‘50s, Keep America Beautiful took off. Those images are iconic, and we can do the same thing here.
  • How can we preserve teaching critical thinking and other foundational skills while we’re teaching such a technical education?
  • Goble: Our student organizations help preserve those skills. Those organizations also make CTE more fun and marketable.
  • Johnson: This is why it’s so important to make these credentials and certificates stackable. We have engaged employees working for us.

 Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR):

  • What can the federal government do to help rural areas develop equitable, quality CTE programs?
  • Lufkin: In your state, we have an initiative with the Oregon Department of Education that has been incentivized through accountability provisions and provisions regarding state leadership funds in the Perkins Act. It is supporting increasing access and success of underrepresented students in nontraditional career and technical programs. Federal policy has driven this. It creates the sense of need that makes these programs happen, especially when principles don’t realize these issues exist.
  • What can the committee do to give states and communities the data they need to keep improving?
  • Lufkin: A few provisions from last fall’s legislation handle this. One is the requirement for disaggregated data to begin with. Schools can deal with this data far better than we assume they can.
  • Can you discuss the importance of teaching arts and design in CTE programs of study for students and local economies?
  • Lufkin: Those skills are critical for innovation. Students that can think creatively can be more innovative. The combination of technical skills and creativity leads to more innovative solutions.

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA):

  • Have you seen the Project Jump Start work in rural areas?
  • Rowe: I haven’t seen it firsthand work anywhere but Baltimore. As a template, it’s low-hanging fruit. Nobody hits it as square on the head as Skills USA for the bill we’re contemplating today. They’re a private organization that really stepped up after we took the “arts” out of vocational arts. We need to shine a light on Project Jump Start and Skills USA in terms of public relations.
  • How can a reauthorization of the Perkins Act give the opportunity for all schools to succeed?
  • Lufkin: Access to high quality CTE is key. We need to ensure federally funded programs are high caliber. Criteria need to be created for what high quality means, so articulated credits, integrated curriculums, access to work based learning, dual enrollments, and equity could all be incentivized in the legislation. Ensuring special populations have access could be proactively supported in the legislation.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO):

  • Can you discuss the role of concurrent enrollment aiding disadvantaged students access postsecondary education?
  • Lufkin: First of all, first generation college students face barriers whether they be financial, family support, transportation and location, and earning post secondary education credits in high school incentivizes low-income students to access college without as much debt. Success in dual enrollment programs also provides internal incentives to continue.
  • Can you speak to dual enrollment programs in Utah and their relevance to CTE?
  • Goble: We offer dual enrollment and it’s a great opportunity for underrepresented students. In Utah, it costs $5 per credit. To have student participate in college level coursework in a familiar environment bridges that gap and they gain an internal drive.
  • Can you discuss the role of apprenticeships in CTE?
  • Rowe: I couldn’t imagine a more important model in any trade.
  • Does the payment make a difference in participation?
  • Rowe: Of course it does. It’s a transitional way to get rewarded as you’re transitioning into the workforce. Project Jump Start uses a stipend, but there are consequences if you’re lacking in the soft skills like timeliness and professionalism.
  • Johnson: Apprenticeships provide a realistic job preview. It conveys knowledge to them and it becomes an awareness that pushes CTE.

Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN):

  • How does this skills gap impact companies?
  • Johnson: They’re starting to plan on having these gaps not being filled. We need better public relations.
  • So it sounds like they’re planning to mechanize or move or make other decisions as a company?
  • Johnson: Absolutely. We need to remember the message we’re delivering. Technical sectors need to have a manufacturing value proposition so we have a branded message. We need to talk about the things we need to say, much like the chart showing the average student debt and money earned.
  • Are these dual enrollment programs accessible to low-income students?
  • Goble: Yes. The college does charge $5 per credit, but our principle can cover that if needed.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL):

  • I believe in pushing decision making on this issue down to state and local levels as much as possible, since I believe that is where people best know the skills that are in demand. What do you think about requiring that the student who graduate from CTE programs have a job or making that offer letter a significant measure of success?
  • Rowe: In my foundation, this is critical. There’s a notion that the existence of opportunity is the balm for unemployment. The skills gap tells us that that is not case. We choose to challenge students. When we find those kids, it seems to work. We’ve seen that many small businesses form around people who begin by mastering a trade.
  • Goble: A main tenant of our public-private partnership is that those students have preferential treatment in the hiring process. We aim for job placement as much as possible.
  • Johnson: We do this through using job need projections. This could be done in funding allocation as well.