Yesterday the House passed the bipartisan H.R. 2353, “The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.” This bill serves as an update to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides federal support for career and technical education (CTE) programs. Jobs for the Future (JFF) commends the House’s bipartisan efforts to update the Perkins Act, recognizing that people face a job market that is significantly different from when the Act was last reauthorized in 2006. JFF recognizes that high-quality, industry-aligned CTE programs can benefit students looking for a cost-effective path to obtain the knowledge, skills, and credentials needed to start a career. Further, these programs can provide students with career exposure as well as skills that give them a head start in higher education.
The updated bill makes significant improvements in the federal CTE law by encouraging the development of high-quality programs of study; emphasizing the importance of work-based learning; encouraging the expansion of dual enrollment and early college high school opportunities; requiring that CTE program skill sets are aligned with the needs of employers in in-demand industries and occupations; focusing on the importance of employability skill development; and better aligning CTE with innovations and programming established in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
As the bill moves to the Senate for consideration, we look forward to working with Congress to ensure the final bill provides the highest priority for high-quality programs of study; clarity on a definition of “employability skills;” more opportunities for expansion of dual enrollment and early college high schools; improved pathways that are industry aligned; and a focus on research and evaluation. The bill that will ultimately replace the Perkins Act must ensure not only that students develop career-relevant skills for in-demand industries, but that those skills will prove adaptable in an ever-changing economy.