Perkins Act Reauthorization: A Reminder to Continue Advocating

By Timmothy Boettcher, President and CEO of Realityworks, Inc.

2015 ACTE Business Leader of the Year

The U.S. is on a path towards realizing how important Career and Technical Education (CTE) is in this country, and on June 28, Congress took an important step to ensure that journey continues: It announced a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

Sponsored by Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA), the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act is the first comprehensive reauthorization of the Perkins Act to be considered by Congress since 2006. It’s the result of efforts by educators, business leaders, legislators and organizations to ensure that schools can equip students with the academic, technical and job-related skills they need to succeed and keep our country’s workforce competitive. It is spectacular to see those efforts coming to fruition.

Such efforts are the only way to keep support for CTE moving forward. With regular, consistent advocacy, educators and business leaders can connect. They can collaborate to develop programs that will properly prepare our future workforce – programs that match curricula to industry requirements, combine core academics with employability and technical skills and prepare students to be college- and career-ready. As Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King. Jr. recently stated, “Every job that leads to a secure future requires critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.” CTE programs provide students with those skills.

That’s why the Industry Workforce Needs Coalition (IWNC), which I chair, continues to foster partnerships between education and industry while advocating for increased funding on federal, state and local levels. It’s why the IWNC collaborated with the Association for Career & Technical Education and Opportunity America to help organize a Congressional staff briefing earlier this year on CTE from an employer perspective. And it’s why more work is needed to ensure that our workforce is properly prepared for the future.

This bill seeks to reform several aspects of the Perkins Act to reflect the challenges facing students and workers today. Highlights of the bill include improved alignment between education and workforce development laws, which will drive program congruency. It also simplifies the process through which educators can access CTE funding by lessening bureaucratic requirements and expanding state control.

The educators, business leaders, legislators and organizations who have worked so hard to make this reauthorization bill a reality deserve sincere appreciation. Strengthened CTE legislation is absolutely needed in this country to ensure our workforce is prepared for the future. However, we need to stay focused on ensuring the availability of CTE programs for all students. We need to work to ensure that those programs align with industry standards and incorporate core academics along with job-related skills so that today’s students are prepared for success in the 21st Century workforce. Let’s take this opportunity to continue advocating in support of the economically critical educational opportunities that CTE programs provide.

In addition to presiding over Realityworks, Inc., Timm chairs the IWNC, a group created by American business leaders to increase the population of skilled workers in the US through better alignment between the educational system and industry. Timm was also named ACTE’s 2015 Business Leader of the Year for his sustained commitment to improving CTE and the connection needed between the workforce development, economic development, and education systems.

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