Supporting Pa. workforce for the future
For over three decades, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins Act) has provided the legal framework for federal investment in state and local career and technical education (CTE) programs.
In our congressional district, the Perkins Act helps support the work of Berks Technical Institute, Montgomery County Community College, and Chester County Technical College High School of Phoenixville in their mission to equip students with the high-quality education and hands-on experience necessary to enter the workforce or take their careers to the next level.
These programs play a critical role in educating students and matching job-seekers with in-demand employment opportunities.
However, it has been nearly 11 years since the Perkins Act was updated, and students, educators, and employers are all feeling the effects of operating under an outdated policy structure.
While decade-old policies remain intact, the modern workplace has evolved. Technology has advanced. Employer needs have changed. Baby boomers have retired from the workforce at a faster rate than new hires have been added.
And too many job seekers lack the qualifications to fill the vacancies created every day. This amount of unmet potential limits opportunities for hardworking families and creates unnecessary strain on our local economies.
Updating federal CTE policies is an essential first step in addressing these issues and helping job-seekers find their way into high-paying and fulfilling careers – with or without a four-year college degree.
That is why I co-sponsored and supported H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. This bipartisan legislation, which passed the House on June 22, would reauthorize and update the Perkins Act to strengthen job-ready educational opportunities in high schools, community colleges, and technical education programs in Pennsylvania and across our nation.
Importantly, H.R. 2353 would increase flexibility in how states use Perkins funding by increasing from 10 percent to 15 percent the amount of federal funding states can allocate to support CTE programs that specifically align with local priorities.
Under current law, certain overly-prescriptive federal restrictions on the use of Perkins funding create a discrepancy between where federal dollars are needed and where they actually end up. In Pennsylvania, where we are facing a critical shortage of skilled workers in the precision manufacturing industry, H.R. 2353 would allow state and local leaders to target additional resources to address this particular need, among others.
In addition, H.R. 2353 would improve coordination between educators and employers by requiring Perkins funding recipients to consult regularly with local stakeholders to ensure programs are aligned appropriately with industry needs.
This important provision would help strengthen curriculums and preserve the integrity of CTE programs to ensure they equip students with the right knowledge and skills for success in their chosen industry.
In order to prepare our workforce to fill in-demand jobs, employers, educators, and community leaders must work from the same playbook. I have met with dozens of employers in our congressional district who have already taken the initiative to form these partnerships, and this legislation would bolster federal support to the grassroots efforts already taking place in our communities.
As a member of the Congressional CTE Caucus and the co-chair of the Congressional 21st Century Skills Caucus, I will continue working to advance legislative solutions to ensure all students are equipped for success in our dynamic 21st century economy.
Passage of H.R. 2353 marks an important milestone in our efforts to support our students, equip our workforce, and strengthen our local economies for decades to come.
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6th Dist., is co-chair of the Congressional 21st Century Skills Caucus and a member of the Congressional CTE Caucus.