When IBM joined forces with The City University of New York, the New York City College of Technology and the New York City Department of Education to create the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – a new school with a strong career and technical education program – we knew we were witnessing an historic collaborative effort to close the job skills gap for New York’s students. Though initially small, P-TECH was destined to become a laboratory for learning that would benefit other school districts, corporations and – above all – young people. Like me, many New York City public school leaders had long embraced the concept of public-private partnerships like P-TECH that would strengthen our young people’s technical skills and give them a leg up in college and high-growth-area careers.
Now that the cloning of P-TECH is becoming a reality across our city, state and nation, with a strong endorsement from President Barack Obama, it is more than time to urge Congress to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. More has to be done to prepare students with the kinds of technical skills that the labor market increasingly demands. A reauthorized and stronger Perkins Act can help accomplish that.
When first enacted in 1988, the Perkins Act sought to provide funding to states for secondary and postsecondary college and career technical education (CTE) programs in areas such as engineering, technology, applied science, health care, and applied economics. Institutions receiving Perkins funds had to ensure access for special populations that faced difficulty finishing their education and getting hired for good jobs (students with disabilities, persons with limited English proficiency and those who were economically disadvantaged).
Funding for Perkins has been extended, but we must be sure that the Act is reauthorized and that it does all it can for those who choose the CTE path. We know that a significant number of students spend time in education programs only to become certified or trained for fields that are currently not hiring or are being phased out. Let’s make sure that CTE programs are training these students to enter fields where hiring will take place into
In April 2012, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) issued a report titled Investing in America’s Future: A Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education. The report detailed the programmatic changes to the Perkins Act that would be needed if CTE students were to gain employment, and reinforced the administration’s belief that our economy is inextricably linked to strengthening the education system. Unsurprisingly, one of the four Perkins amendments proposed by the USDOE was alignment of CTE programs with occupations in high-growth sectors.
This is an easy one. Let’s unite and urge Congress to work with the President to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and include changes to strengthen the program for the students it serves and the industries that need them.
Ernest A. Logan is President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1: AFSA, AFL-CIO.