Krishnamoorthi pushes for 9% hike in career and technical education funding
Federal support for career and technical education programs in schools must continue and grow, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said Wednesday.
During a morning meeting at his Schaumburg congressional office, Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg, discussed the basics of legislation he is sponsoring to reauthorize federal career and technical education funding. The legislation is currently awaiting a House vote.
About 40 representatives of local corporations and educational institutions — including Elgin-based School District U46 and Elgin Community College — participated in Wednesday’s summit, with some giving input as to the importance of specialized workers in technology, manufacturing, health care, and other high-skill jobs.
“There is not anyone in the trades who is not proud of what they do. We built all these buildings here, we probably built all the buildings you work in, we bring in wealth,” said Vince Sticca, apprentice and training program director for the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, referring to the buildings surrounding Krishnamoorthi’s offices in the Woodfield Mall area.
The bill would increase federal funding under the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act by 9 percent over the next 6 years, according to the legislation. Currently, there is more than $1.1 billion available in Perkins money for either secondary schools or higher-education institutions.
Krishnamoorthi said the re-authorization of the decades-old legislation, last updated in 2006, allows for more flexibility in how states can use the money if educational policies or job market outlooks change. The legislation also calls for greater focus on diversifying participation to increase low-income, minority and adult participation.
Flexibility is necessary given how priorities have changed, such as whether applicants completed a four-year degree, finished high school, or already have real-world experience.
“We cannot afford to not do this,” Krishnamoorthi said.
Krishnamoorthi said the 8th Congressional District, which includes portions of Elgin and other Fox Valley communities, has the largest concentration of Swiss-based corporations of any legislative district nationally. Officials from these companies have approached Krishnamoorthi to talk about the experience and training students receive in school, he said. Swiss school systems tend to put greater emphasis on opportunities like apprenticeships earlier, he said.
Several local corporations, such as Switzerland-based Zurich — whose North American headquarters are in Schaumburg — already have programs in place to promote greater outreach for technical education funding. Al Crook, human resources head of business partners, outlined Zurich’s recruitment plans, such as bringing in 19 for its insurance apprenticeship program last year, and continuing it this year for a second group of students of varying ages and experiences. They get hired by Zurich as apprentices, earn real-world experience while also taking classes, and many get hired full-time after completing their studies.
“We’re really excited about the dialogue we have had to add apprenticeships in how to bring in and train the workforce of the future,” he said.
There is still a “severe shortage” in fields where skills like cyber security, high-tech manufacturing, and trades like carpentry are needed, said Krishnamoorthi. He said there is bipartisan support for reauthorizing Perkins; the bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Pennsylvania Republican. It passed the House education committee unanimously two weeks ago, and last year a similar piece of legislation was approved almost unanimously when it went for a House vote. Krishnamoorthi’s hopes are high that it will pass the House, but also must still get through the U.S. Senate and President Donald Trump, in what may be one of the first education bills to get to his desk.
Author: Rafael Guerrero, Elgin Courier-News