Roby: Career & Technical Education Connects Today’s Students with the Careers of Tomorrow
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Supporting career and technical education helps connect students with rewarding careers and boosts local economies by enhancing the workforce, U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-Ala.) said today.
In a speech from the House floor, Roby spoke in support of legislation now pending in the House that would reauthorize funding for career tech programs at community colleges, vocational schools, and high schools. In her speech, Roby highlighted her recent visits to successful career tech programs in Tallassee, Geneva, and Dothan.
“My state of Alabama is blessed with a strong network of community colleges offering a wide array of career training,” Roby said. “They are working hand-in-glove with industry to make sure the training matches the jobs that will be waiting for students when they complete their courses.”
Roby also spoke of efforts to dispel unfair and unhelpful mischaracterizations of careers in the skilled trades.
“When it comes to higher education, we all know there has been a silent stigma attached to not completing an academic degree at a four-year university. For years we were afraid to say that college isn’t for everybody, when the truth is career tech programs can actually lead many Americans to a better quality of life,” she said. “Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to take the next step in career and technical education today. The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act will help equip our students with the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to start their careers. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation and support our future workforce.”
H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21 Century Act, authorizes $5.9 billion for career tech programs over the next five years, with an additional $1.2 billion in 2023. The bill also simplifies the application process, provides greater flexibility to program administrators so they can adjust to changing needs, improves accountability requirements to ensure programs deliver results, and ensures a limited federal role in education.
The bill will be considered by the full House later today. The full transcript of Roby’s floor speech is below.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise to offer my full support for H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.
For more than 30 years, federal funding known as Perkins funding has helped support career and technical education programs at the state and local level. This legislation reauthorizes that funding and makes needed improvements to ensure Perkins dollars are spent efficiently and effectively.
Mr. Speaker, I’m a big believer in Career Tech programs for three simple reasons: They help prepare students for rewarding careers; They ensure American workers have the tools necessary for skilled trades that are foundational to our society; And, they boost our economy by providing a quality workforce.
When it comes to higher education, we all know there has been a silent stigma attached to not completing an academic degree at a four-year university. For years we were afraid to say that college isn’t for everybody, when the truth is career tech programs can actually lead many Americans to a better quality of life.
Thankfully, I believe those days are over. Efforts like Mike Rowe’s “Go Build American” campaign have been tremendously successful in raising awareness and dispelling myths about the jobs that exist in skilled trades. This rising generation is showing signs of being more entrepreneurial with a willingness to think outside the box. And, our programs have greatly improved over the years to offer training for careers our students are actually interested in.
Mr. Speaker, my state of Alabama is blessed with a strong network of community colleges offering a wide array of career training. Alabama’s Community College System has more than 79,000 students enrolled in CTE programs, and over 70 Alabama public high schools are now offering CTE courses. They are working hand-in-glove with industry to make sure the training matches the jobs that will be waiting for students when they complete their courses.
I visited one such program recently in Tallassee, a small town in Central Alabama. Tallassee High School administrators have worked tirelessly to build a program that serves the growing needs of local students. The city and county are working together to improve facilities and make sure students have access to transportation.
Up until now, students in Tallassee had to take a bus 30 minutes away to Wetumpka or even an hour away to Trenholm State in Montgomery to access these career tech courses. Now, thanks to the hard work of Tallassee’s leaders and educators, students are beginning to access those programs in their hometown.
I visited another thriving career tech program a few months ago in Geneva, a small town in Alabama’s Wiregrass region. Geneva High School has partnered with the Alabama National Guard, whose local armory now serves as a training site for high demand skills such as automotive technology, welding, aviation maintenance, and health science. Students from city and county schools can get ahead on their college coursework via dual enrollment with Lurleen Wallace Community College or Enterprise State.
Geneva and Tallassee are not alone in their commitment to our students; Dothan’s Wallace Community College offers training in 16 high demand career fields. Wallace takes their programs to the next level by combining traditional study with hands on experiences. Their criminal justice program, for example, utilizes a virtual law enforcement training simulator, the only of its kind on an Alabama college campus. These programs serve as a model for not only the state of Alabama, but the nation as a whole. Their successes demonstrate the potential career tech programs hold.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is so much more than just funding. It makes important improvements to our career tech policy, including: Simplifying the application process that community and state leaders have to navigate for federal funds; Providing more flexibility to administrators so they can adjust to the needs of the students and industry; Improving accountability and transparency to ensure the programs we are funding actually deliver results; And, lastly, ensuring a limited federal role in education - just as we did with the new K-12 law.
Mr. Speaker, with the modern workplace changing at a rapid pace, it is imperative that educators and facilities keep up. With this bill, these programs can continue to successfully connect today’s students with the careers of tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to take the next step in career and technical education today. The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act will help equip our students with the skills, knowledge and experience they need to start their careers. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation and support our future workforce.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I yield back.