Perkins Act Reauthorization Will Jumpstart CTE and Help Close America's Skills Gap
By Jeremy Wheaton, ECMC Group
President Trump signed into law the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act—the primary law governing federal funding for career and technical education in the United States—for the first time since 2006. The overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation will authorize more than $7.5 billion in federal grants to states for their CTE programs.
ECMC Group commends Congress and President Trump for acting to reauthorize the Perkins Act. Closing America’s skills gap is a pressing issue for our nation’s students, workers and businesses, and it is encouraging to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle join hands to address this growing challenge.
This legislation is only the beginning. It will take a collective effort to build a pipeline from education to the workforce that prepares all Americans for well-paying jobs in the rapidly changing 21st century economy. Our sleeves are rolled up for continued work with our students and colleagues in higher education, business and government to tackle this challenge under the new Perkins framework.
ECMC Group is deeply committed to the key tenets of this refresh of the Perkins Act. Here’s how we’re applying our expertise across our organization to meet these objectives:
No two job markets are the same, therefore, each workforce development system must be tailored to solving the unique challenges in local areas. The Perkins Act allows states to develop their performance targets for CTE without having to negotiate with the Department of Education, a positive step toward encouraging experimentation and development of best practices.
The bill’s bipartisan supporters say it will “encourage states, schools and local CTE providers to update education and job training to meet the needs of the local economies, ensuring students have the skills needed to remain competitive.”
ECMC Group is equally committed to answering this call and helping local economies meet their workforce development needs. Take Atlanta, which has a demand for surgical technologists that outpaces the national average: the recently launched associate degree program in surgical technology at our Altierus Norcross campus goes directly to meeting this need. Each of our Altierus campuses collaborates with local employers and other partners to refine our programs and develop new offerings to fill local skills gaps.
Across the country, there has been a growing commitment to closing the skills gap in recent years. Major corporations have created new training programs and committed millions of dollars in grants, and politicians at the state and federal levels have found bipartisan agreement, reaching across the aisle to work together. In spite of this collective effort, the skills gap has not improved, in large part because programs are siloed across different federal departments and state agencies, and data on what works in one area is unable to be applied to another.
The new legislation does several things to enable better information sharing and accountability measurement across all levels of government and external stakeholders at the state and local level:
- Requires state grantees to establish performance targets and gather data for specific groups of students; and
- Creates greater alignment amongst federal programs like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by adopting “many of the core definitions and performance accountability measures from other pieces of federal education and workforce development legislation.”
ECMC Group is deeply committed to breaking down these walls and aiding in data-sharing and accountability. We have begun to work with the state workforce boards in the locations where we have campuses and with numerous other stakeholders—including community organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters that help underserved populations seeking access to good jobs, governors’ offices, businesses and learners—to drive improvements in CTE. We’re hopeful this legislation will encourage more streamlined and effective collaboration to meet workforce needs.
Finally, the legislation sets aside specific funding to encourage underserved populations, including those from economically disadvantaged families and people with disabilities, to seek out CTE offerings and participate in those programs.
For instance, a challenge grant supported by our Foundation is helping fund a partnership between three campuses to create and enhance summer bridge programs designed to support black male students’ transitions onto their campuses. And the Foundation supports a California initiative to help the state’s colleges and universities serve incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students.
We applaud Congress and the White House for their commitment to ensuring American workers succeed in the 21st century economy. We’re excited to see additional federal funding being committed to this effort and are eager to see how increased educational equity can be brought to bear in CTE programs across the country.