The Skills to Succeed
An economy that can create jobs is a great thing. In fact, that’s the goal of the policies I support in Congress. But what if there is no one with the right skills to fill these jobs? Today, there are many open jobs in communities throughout Virginia waiting for highly-skilled, trained individuals. This means we have a skills gap, and that gap must be filled.
Just days ago, the House of Representatives passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. This bill reauthorizes and builds upon the success of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, a more than three-decade-old law that provides federal support to state and local career and technical education, or CTE, programs. The widely bipartisan bill simplifies the requirements states and localities face when applying for funding. Additionally, it increases flexibility in how states can use federal funds for CTE programs, empowering state leaders to provide more funds to rural jurisdictions as well as better focusing programs on in-demand industries in their communities. It also makes reforms to help increase accountability to taxpayers and ensure these programs deliver results.
Career and technical education is helping bridge career paths for many students and adults in the Sixth District. With support from Virginia Western Community College, Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC) will soon launch its mechatronics program, which will help students learn the technical skills necessary in the fusion of mechanical and electrical engineering and information technology. Furthermore, CTE grants have helped schools like BTEC purchase the necessary equipment to teach and train students to be qualified in auto repair, cosmetology, and even helped BTEC’s advanced welding lab become the first high school program in Virginia to be certified by the American Welding Society.
Another exciting opportunity was recently announced as part of a program through Massanutten Technical Center and Rockingham County Public Schools. A new Agricultural Production Technology course will give students hands-on experience on a working farm, teaching them about animal and crop science as well as the business management skills needed for a future career in the agriculture industry. Programs like this don’t just focus on classroom instruction – they also teach students how to “do.”
There is no one path to success. There are a number of routes you can take to reach your goals and for some students that doesn’t necessarily come from attending a traditional four-year university. What you do need is the right set of skills to succeed in your chosen field. Developing the workforce through career and technical education helps Americans compete for high-skilled jobs in today’s economy. Most importantly, CTE programs not only connect folks with higher quality, better paying jobs, but also put them on the path to a lifelong career.