Krishnamoorthi pushes for more federal funding for career programs
An effort to expand and modernize career, technical and vocational education programs nationwide could benefit local community colleges and high schools, its sponsors say.
U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania — the lead Democratic and Republican sponsors on the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act — spoke last week with the Daily Herald Editorial Board about the legislation.
In June, the House unanimously passed the measure, which moves to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for review.
“We desperately need some bipartisan victories right now,” said Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat who represents the 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cook, DuPage and Kane counties.
The legislation authorizes $80 million more in funding over six years starting in fiscal year 2018 — increasing the total allocation for 2018 to $1.13 billion. The money will go toward community colleges, high schools and technical campuses providing career and technical education (CTE) programs.
Under the measure, states and local institutions would have more flexibility in using federal money to respond to changing education and economic needs. It requires educators to work with local business and industry partners to design curricula matching the changing dynamics of the market so students learn skills sought by employers, Krishnamoorthi said.
“The labor markets are changing so rapidly, you really want the decision-makers to be as close to the labor markets as possible to better meet employer needs,” said the freshman congressman. “Any federal funding that’s spent on training must be done through some kind of collaboration with employers. This really helps to tackle the skills gap in this country.”
Krishnamoorthi cited an insurance apprenticeship program offered by Schaumburg-based Zurich North America in partnership with Harper College in Palatine as a perfect example. Students receive on-the-job training at Zurich’s headquarters and attend weekly classes at Harper. The program is the first of its kind in the nation, preparing individuals for careers in the insurance industry.
As most American workers do not have a college degree, Krishnamoorthi said improved career and technical education, and schools and businesses working together to create more apprentice programs, would lead to better jobs for those without a degree.
“While a four-year college degree might not be for everyone, education has to be,” Krishnamoorthi said. “We are trying to remove that stigma (of CTE programs), as well.”
Thompson said the legislation offers a leg up for people seeking better jobs.
“If we can make skills-based education more accessible … there’s no better social program than a good-paying job,” he added.
Author: Madhu Krishnamurthy
Photo Credit: Harper College