Since the House of Representatives voted to pass a bipartisan, comprehensive Perkins Act reauthorization bill in both 2016 and 2017, all eyes have been on the Senate HELP Committee to follow suit. The Perkins Act, which has not been reauthorized since 2006, is the main federal investment in both secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) programs. Perkins Act-programs are a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to effectively equipping individuals to fill jobs in high-demand industries in need of workers—especially those at the middle-skill level. As a result, workforce development stakeholders, including employers, educators and policymakers, have remained steadfast in calling for action on the Perkins Act since it became eligible for reauthorization in 2010.
This week, the Senate HELP Committee provided notice that they plan to consider a Perkins Act reauthorization bill on Wednesday, June 20th. In light of this recent development, National Skills Coalition submitted a set of recommendations to Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-SC) and Ranking Member Murray (D-WA), proposing ways to make the Act work better for students and employers in today’s economy. These recommendations urged the Committee to:
Connect CTE to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) state workforce strategies
- Under WIOA, states must submit a four-year plan to the Secretary of Labor outlining their workforce development strategy. Rather than requiring states to submit a separate plan for Perkins-Act programs, NSC recommends better aligning these complementary strategies through the use of unified or combined state plans.
Align CTE performance requirements with WIOA common indicators
- A challenge that has persisted when it comes to streamlining federal education and workforce programs is an overall lack of common performance metrics. To address this issue, WIOA aimed to establish uniform indicators of success across core programs. NSC urges the Committee to apply these measures to postsecondary Perkins Act-funded programs.
Continue to encourage the development and implementation of sector partnerships across programs
- WIOA was the first piece of federal legislation to require the use of industry or sector partnerships—which are formed when multiple employers in an industry choose to collaborate with other stakeholders to develop skilled worker pipelines—as a strategy for workforce development. CTE program administrators would serve as valuable sector partnership participants, given their dedication to increasing access to high-quality training for students. Therefore, NSC encourages the Committee to dedicate resources for sector partnership alignment across Perkins Act and WIOA programs.
Support the use of career pathways
- A career pathway, as defined in WIOA, is a combination of classroom instruction, training and support services which help student persist and succeed in their programs of study. To ensure these comprehensive learning models continue to help students thrive, NSC maintains that Perkins Act programs should meet the definition of career pathways under WIOA and should be developed in partnership with local workforce boards.
Expand and support work-based learning models
- Work-based learning—which can include apprenticeships, on-the-job training and internships—has been a main focus of federal workforce policy in recent years. Currently, CTE administrators are not required to ensure that students have access to work-based learning as part of their curriculum. NSC recommends providing funding for Perkins Act-programs to incorporate work-based learning strategies, which can better prepare students for the labor market.
NSC is grateful to the HELP Committee for their work to ensure our nation’s federal education and labor policies work for all students—and looks forward to continuing to provide input throughout the Perkins Act reauthorization process.