Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to investigate proposals for improving career and technical education (CTE) funding programs through the Carl D. Perkins Act re-authorization. In his opening remarks, Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) mentioned the sub-committee testimony of Al Bargas, president of the ABC Pelican Chapter in Baton Rouge, La., and highlighted their partnership between industry and education as well as their success at delivering relevant hands-on education for in-demand career fields. The theme of industry collaborating with education providers would continue as a major focus of the full committee.
Stanley Litlow, a vice-president with IBM, made the clear case for greater business involvement in his opening remarks.
“Far too many current CTE programs are not aligned with labor force needs, meaning that the jobs they are preparing our young people for either do not exist in the numbers needed, or they do not exist at all. Businesses share in the blame. Business involvement,which is critical to connecting education and economic need, is spotty at best. With very little business involvement, few CTE programs are aligned to real jobs and needed skills, so the skills stressed in the workplace are missing both from college and high school curriculum, leaving graduates underprepared.”
“All career and technical education programs, where possible, must include industry credentials. Industry credentials provide a clear and direct connection between education and work and ensure graduates have the skills employers require in the new economy.”
“Local connections to businesses are important, and we do have some examples of successful local advisory committees; however, advisory committees typically function with limited or no committee staff support, which restricts sustained employer engagement.”
“The incentive would be to reauthorize the legislation and make sure that business is really involved and at the table, and not just as part of an advisory group that makes suggestions. But that actually is involved in shaping the curriculum and the experience, so that you get a larger number of students who have the skills that you need. I think that if that were done, you would see a lot more business involved than you see today.”
Mr. Litlow also challenged the conventional wisdom that effective on-the-job learning can be achieved only through apprenticeships:
“There are a lot of effective apprenticeship programs outside of the U.S., and very often they are highlighted as examples of success. On the other hand, they are not providing, in many instances, the kind of skills that are required to expand from one job to another, or to have a broader range of career success. They tend to be fairly narrow in their focus, and they’re about preparation for only one type of career. Careers are changing, opportunities are changing. And that’s why all students need to be prepared with the opportunity to learn how to acquire knowledge and be successful”
Here at WF_C, we agree that apprenticeship programs registered by the government aren’t necessarily the most effective way to deliver craft training to construction professionals. The vast majority of skills training in the merit shop construction industry is done through industry-recognized craft training and should receive the same priority as government-recognized training in federal CTE programs like the Perkins Act.
An example of this would be the industry-recognized credentials provided by NCCER. NCCER was developed by more than 125 construction companies and various association and academic leaders who united to revolutionize craft training for the construction industry. Sharing the common goal of developing a safe and productive workforce, these companies created standardized craft training that results in an industry-recognized and nationally portable credential. This on-going, multi-million dollar investment in craft training illustrates the merit shop’s commitment to the future of the industry. Since its inception, the program has evolved into curricula for more than 60 craft areas.