Yesterday ACTE hosted a National Leadership Forum to discuss policy and practice around preparing today’s students for the workforce. Topics included skills attainment, CTE’s role in economic development, certifications and assessments, and federal policy.
Glenn Cummings, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Vocational and Adult Education, outlined the Administration’s goals for preparing students:
- Abolish dual tracks – there is a baseline set of skills that all students need to be successful
- Assessments – the use of performance based assessments has been encouraged through the Race to the Top competition
- Access to further skills – regardless of the setting (university, community college or skill training program) there needs to be better communication between high schools and postsecondary institutions
- Access to funding – students, especially working students, are hard pressed to finish school without financial assistance, and many drop out because they cannot afford tuition. Increases in Pell grants and a simplified FAFSA form are just two ways that the Administration is making postsecondary a financially viable option.
Kelly Hastings from Senator Michael Enzi’s (WY) office talked about the urgent need for WIA reauthorization this year. Despite the scant attention paid to WIA, Senator Enzi is passionate about it and is optimistic that it could be reauthorized this year. Among his priorities are: a dual customer approach, better coordination across the four titles of WIA, innovation, and flexibility. She stated that there would not be “wholesale change” of WIA in the next reauthorization, but that Congress will tweak the existing law to meet the needs to today’s workforce.
Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness, joined us during lunch to offer his perspective. He spoke about being elected to Congress from a district with a 23% unemployment rate 16 years ago and a current unemployment rate of 6%. He credits the investment in human capital and education for the dramatic decline in unemployment.
If there was one point that I heard over and over from several speakers it was that during a time of 9% unemployment there are jobs going unfilled because of the lack of skilled workers. CTE is a means to develop pathways of education and training to get people appropriately matched to these jobs. At a time when 15 million people in this country are unemployed, no job should remain unfilled.