Since the 2008 recession, I have been hearing the same concern from Rhode Island business owners: they’re unable to find skilled workers to fill open positions, and it’s hurting their companies. This skills gap impedes economic growth and prevents workers from finding jobs. As a co-chair of the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, one of my top priorities is strengthening our CTE programs so that students graduate career-ready and equipped with the necessary skills to join the workforce.
That’s why I am pleased to report that after years of work, Congress has approved an update to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which funds important CTE programs in Rhode Island and across the country. Just yesterday, this bipartisan legislation, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, was signed into law by the President.
I was a coauthor of the bill, and it includes several of my policy priorities, including expanding access to apprenticeships and providing support for career counselors. The bill also increases federal investment and realigns our CTE programs to better match industry needs by bringing businesses in as stakeholders during program development. We have a proud tradition in this country of local control of education, and it is important that federal assistance reflects the immediate needs of the community.
Many students will take an educational journey that culminates in a four-year college degree. Others will find that a two-year degree or certificate program appeals to them. Still others will plan on leaving high school to start their careers. What’s important is that we give students the opportunity to choose by investing in all of these pathways and offering guidance as to which option is right for them. The new law the President signed yesterday will help both students and employers in our state, and I was proud to play a part in its passage.
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