On July 31, President Trump signed into law the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act after it passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. The Act reforms the career and technical education (CTE) system for the first time since 2006.
The bill will provide some important changes to skills-based education, including a $1.3 billion annual increase in funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program; a program that benefits secondary and post-secondary students, providing on-the-job training in fields such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and cyber-security.
This Act will help align our education system with our ever evolving workforce needs. It will strengthen and provide further enhancements to our existing regional CTE programs. It will also allow the NWIWB to support local high schools and post-secondary education in forging partnerships and stronger engagement with businesses in order to prepare students for jobs in our high-demand industries.
Ron Painter, CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards cites that consultation with local workforce boards in key areas will be a fundamental need to ensure collaboration at the community level, considering the bill further aligns the training program with broader Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in areas of career pathway work, planning, reporting, and terminology.
Helping people, especially young people, enter the workforce with the skills they need to compete for high-wage jobs in Northwest Indiana’s in-demand industries is critical our economy. This legislation will provide enhancements through:
- Simplifying the application process for receiving federal funds and providing more flexibility to use federal resources to respond to changing education and economic needs.
- Improving alignment with in-demand jobs by supporting innovative learning opportunities, building better community partnerships, and encouraging stronger engagement with employers.
- Limiting a federal role by reining in the secretary of education’s authority, limiting federal intervention, and preventing political favoritism.
Northwest Indiana is fortunate to already have robust CTE centers in several school systems throughout the region. These centers are engaging and providing all students throughout Northwest Indiana the opportunity to gain skills through applied learning. The NWIWB would like to see is an expansion and/or addition of programming that further aligns with our regional high-wage, high-demand jobs.
Comprehensive CTE centers in our region include Porter County Career Center, Area Career Center of Hammond, A.K. Smith Area Career Center, Gary Area Career Center, Indian Trails Career Cooperative, and North Central Area Vocational Cooperative. These centers also have feeder schools with registered students taking advantage of the center’s classes.
Many individual school districts, in addition to being feeder schools for comprehensive centers, also offer CTE coursework leading to CTE concentrations. School districts also provide exploration courses that allow students to determine if CTE concentrations are their preferred option. CTE concentrations and direct connections to our region's employers will become increasingly important under the new high school graduation requirements where students will need new college/career readiness proof points to graduate. We are likely to see an expansion of CTE concentrations during the next few years.
We are a very fortunate and CTE-strong region. These adjustments to the legislation will only amplify our strength.