Congressman Joe Kennedy III today announced the Perkins Modernization Act of 2014, a bipartisan bill that would strengthen and support career/technical education ("CTE" or "vocational education") by using workforce data to ensure that curriculum is aligned with the needs of employers in local labor markets. The bill will be introduced today in the House with Reps Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Jared Polis (D-CO).
"Across the country CTE programs are revolutionizing the way we prepare students to succeed in a modern workforce," said Congressman Kennedy. "By synchronizing strong academics with technical training valued by employers, these programs are fundamental in our efforts to arm future generations with the skills they need to compete. Here in Massachusetts our top-tier vocational schools and CTE programs are leading the way in aligning their curriculum with the needs of local employers, small businesses, and emerging industries. The Perkins Modernization Act would help solidify and scale this approach, to ensure that kids across the country graduate ready to lead the way in a 21st century workforce.
"Continuing to support career/technical education and ensuring it is anchored in the needs of the American economy is key to one of the most pressing national challenges we face: building accessible pathways to good jobs in an economy plagued by rising inequality," continued Kennedy. "It's a challenge that we feel in states red or blue, communities big and small. This bill will help us meet that challenge head on."
First passed in 1984, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act provides federal funding for CTE -- or vocational -- education across the country. The Perkins Act was last updated by Congress in 2006 and is due for reauthorization this year. Kennedy's bill would adjust the legislative language of the Perkins Act to ensure that CTE efforts across the country take into account the trends and projections identified by labor market data. When CTE is informed by labor market data and aligned with the evolving needs of our economy, students graduate ready for competitive employment and lifetime opportunity in the economy's in-demand industry sectors and occupations. This bill reaffirms and strengthens the important bipartisan purpose of the Perkins Act--preparing CTE students to succeed in the modern workforce.
"To close our skills gap, we must train our young people for the jobs where there are openings," said Governor Deval Patrick. "This legislation update, along with our investments to better align our community colleges with workforce needs, will better prepare our residents for the jobs of the 21st century global economy."
"Massachusetts career and technical high schools have been leading the way for years in preparing students to be ready to enter the workforce," said Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone. "This legislation will help strengthen our ability to meet the needs of employers in emerging and high-demand industries and will set our students on the pathway to a good job they can be proud of."
"The Massachusetts Vocational Technical Education community is excited about Congressman Kennedy's bill, for it is aligned with one of the strengths of our State's delivery system," said David Ferreira, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators. "In-demand occupations should be the focus of new program development in vocational technical education and Perkins funding is the catalyst for initiating these emerging programs. Labor market analysis and the continued partnerships with business and industry will place vocational technical education as a leader in the workforce development system and in stimulating economic development. The Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA) fully endorses and supports Congressman Kennedy's bill."
"Regardless of industry, employers are looking for a talent pipeline that can produce workers proficient in STEM skills," said JD Chesloff, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. "To meet this demand, a reformed Perkins Act can help the nation's students acquire the skills they need and employers are demanding. The Perkins Modernization Act of 2014, filed by Congressmen Joseph P. Kennedy, Adam Kinzinger, Rodney Davis, and Jared Polis, is an important bipartisan effort to align education and industry, and prepare students to succeed in the modern workforce. The Massachusetts Business Roundtable is grateful for their leadership."
The Perkins Modernization Act of 2014 would update the current bill language so that federal investment in career and technical education (CTE) targets the skills demanded by employers in strong and growing industries. By leveraging workforce data and labor market information to clearly identify which sectors and occupations are "in-demand," this bill would ensure that CTE curriculum remains dynamically rooted in the needs of the American economy and accurately reflects the skills and credentials sought by employers in the labor markets where students plan to work.
"With thousands of Illinoisans still struggling to make ends meet, we need to be doing all we can to help train job-seekers for the jobs of today and tomorrow," said Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). "This bipartisan bill will help ensure that skills being taught are actually in demand in the private sector, giving those looking for work a better chance of finding gainful employment. I want thank Rep. Kennedy and all the cosponsors of this bill for working together on a solution that represents a more efficient use of taxpayer dollars and will hopefully lead to more people getting jobs in Illinois and around the country."
"If young people are to succeed in an increasingly global economy, they need to gain the education and experience that today's employers are looking for," said Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO). By aligning career and technical education programs with local workforce needs, the Perkins Modernization Act will improve student engagement, increase graduation rates, and ensure that our nation's workforce has the skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century."
"As the needs of our economy continue to change so should our workforce training programs," said Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL). "Despite an unemployment rate of nearly nine percent in Illinois, we continue to see jobs go unfilled because our workforce has not caught up with the technical skills required to compete in a 21st-century economy. The Perkins Modernization Act will ensure colleges and universities in the 13th District have the data needed to develop career and technical education programs that give students the best opportunity to find a job upon graduation."
The Perkins Modernization Act will be formally introduced in the House today.