On Tuesday the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a field hearing titled “Reviving Our Economy: How Career and Technical Education Can Strengthen the Workforce” which was the first of two similarly themed hearings convened this week in locations outside of Washington, D.C. The purpose of this hearing was to highlight the significant positive impact education— specifically Career Technical Education (CTE)— and workforce training programs have on state and local economies. The hearing took place in Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, a portion of the state represented by Congressman Joseph Heck (R-NV) who was among one of four Committee members who made the trip to the Silver State.
Chairman Kline (R-MN), Rep. Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Hinojosa (D-TX) alongside their colleague Rep. Heck conducted the field hearing where five witnesses provided testimony centering on the positive effects CTE programs have on their state and in particular Clark County, Nevada. For instance, nearly four out of ten students in Nevada— approximately 50,000 total— enroll in at least one CTE course. Witnesses also pointed out that the graduation rate for those students who choose to concentrate in CTE is a full 17.1 percent higher than their peers in the state. The economic gain reaped by Nevada through increased graduation rates and the reduced number of high school drop-outs demonstrates a compelling return on investment which many members of the Committee took special interest in.
Perhaps the most dominant theme throughout the hearing focused on the importance of the federal investment, principally through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), to Nevada and other states’ ability to equitably deliver high-quality CTE programs to their students. Perkins, like other critical federal investments in education and the nation’s workforce, has not been exempt from various funding cuts over the past several years. Witnesses described how this has negatively impacted CTE’s ability to effectively prepare students for further education and the workforce.
Congressman Heck noted in particular that over the past few years states like Nevada, which have experienced tremendous population growth over the past decade, have received proportionally larger reductions to their Perkins state allocations due to certain provisions contained in the law. To remedy this he touted a proposed amendment he and Rep. Grijalva introduced last August which would ensure states receive at least 90 percent of the funding amount allocated the previous year.
Another theme that resonated throughout the hearing was CTE partnerships with the business community. Chairman Kline questioned how much time school administrators devote to developing relationships with area employers and whether more could be done to support these types of partnerships. Additionally he inquired about a school’s ability to adapt its CTE curriculum to meet the changing needs of businesses and industry.
At the hearing’s conclusion Congressman Heck summed up the discussion nicely saying “I think one of the resounding themes we heard today is partnerships. It’s partnerships amongst the secondary and postsecondary institutions, as well as private partners and employers. These things are all critical. I think we see that there is a very high return on investment for Career Technical Education . . . as well as the follow-on effects for economic development”
An archived webcast of the hearing including Committee statements and witness testimony can be found here.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate