Governors Highlight Career and Technical Education Across the Nation
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- Governors from both sides of the aisle highlighted career and technical education (CTE) in their annual State of the State addresses.
- Federal and state officials alike have turned to CTE to address workforce shortages across the country in recent years.
- Federal officials have touted apprenticeships and other hands-on training opportunities to address labor shortages.
- CTE programs face educator shortages and federal funding shortfalls.
Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pushed for increased higher education funding in his 2023 State of the State address — and touted the number of high school students taking career and technical education (CTE) courses.
Pritzker, who called for more funding to higher education and scholarship funding to students, also proposed a $10 million investment in vocational training for the emerging electrical vehicle workforce in the state, according to the text of his annual address.
Pritzker wasn't alone in highlighting career and technical education in his State of the State address. More than a dozen other governors mentioned CTE in their annual State of the State addresses, according to the Education Commission of the States.
The overview of career and technical education comments from governors revealed broad bipartisan support for those training programs.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) called for a $300 million investment in "capital improvements and equipment for career tech education." Intel Corp. is investing $20 billion in a pair of semiconductor plants in central Ohio, and the vast majority of jobs created by those high-tech plants will be available with an associate degree, BestColleges previously reported.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) underscored her state's goal to have 60% of people in Michigan have a degree or certificate by 2030 and proposed reducing the qualification age for the state's tuition-free Michigan Reconnect program from 25 to 21. More than 113,000 people have already been accepted into that program, which provides a free associate degree or skills training, Whitmer said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) proposed a $1 billion investment in technical colleges, the largest investment in technical colleges in his state's history, as part of a goal to train 10,000 new skilled workers annually. Lee also touted the rise in dual enrollment programs and growing number of CTE opportunities at K-12 schools.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said his state should "ensure that every student has access to career-connected learning while they are in high school," whether via dual enrollment, CTE, apprenticeships, or even earning an associate degree.
Polis also called for an expansion to Care Forward Colorado, a recently launched program that provides free community or technical college training to students pursuing a career in healthcare. Polis wants to see that program expanded to include other high-demand fields, including "construction, firefighting, law enforcement, nursing, and early childhood education."
Momentum for CTE Grows, but Programs Face Challenges
The nationwide and bipartisan emphasis on career and technical education programs encouraged advocates for CTE, who have seen growing momentum for those training programs in recent years.
"In 2023, we are looking forward to continuing our work to ensure that all learners nationwide can access high-quality CTE programs," Jori Houck, media relations and advocacy associate at the Association for Career and Technical Education, told BestColleges in an email.
"Opportunities for students such as work-based learning, dual enrollment and the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials are critical for the skill development needed to be successful in the modern workforce, and should be increased."
Federal and state officials alike have invested in apprenticeship programs as a way to combat a nationwide skills gap in recent years.
The U.S. Department of Labor invested more than $120 million in Apprenticeship Building America grants last year, and the Biden administration launched an Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative in September to bring together employers and labor groups to expand career-training opportunities.
But those critical workforce development initiatives face challenges.
Houck noted that CTE programs are "no exception to the ongoing challenges related to educator shortages — in addition to challenges with recruitment, retention and chronically-low-teacher salaries, schools must compete with industry and businesses to secure these highly-skilled instructors, which is a unique component to CTE educator shortages at the secondary and postsecondary levels."
Houck urged congressional lawmakers to increase funding for the Perkins Basic State Grant by $400 million, which is the main federal funding source for CTE. She said that program "has been conservatively estimated to be funded over $325 million below FY 2004 levels when adjusted for inflation."
Houck added that reauthorizing federal workforce programs like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, National Apprenticeship Act, and Higher Education Act would also work to expand apprenticeship access and improve existing programs.
Houck added that short-term Pell Grants, which BestColleges previously reported have picked up momentum in Congress in recent months, could aid CTE programs.
"We are also anticipating discussion on extending eligibility for federal Pell Grants to short-term, high-quality workforce programs between 150 and 600 clock hours, which has been a longtime priority for the CTE community," Houck said.
"We expect that the bipartisan momentum behind CTE will continue throughout the year, and we look forward to engaging with CTE advocates and lawmakers in service of CTE programs and students."