A bill intended to streamline and add flexibility to the way federal funds for apprenticeships and other workforce training programs are distributed passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.
If the bill succeeds, the amount of federal workforce funding under the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act would not significantly change: $1.13 billion in 2017, increasing incrementally to $1.21 billion by 2022. But the Perkins funding formula will.
States will have more flexibility in disbursing the funds--which currently are distributed almost strictly to schools. The new bill, called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, stipulates that states can use up to 15% of their Perkins funds to set up their own competitive grant programs and career and technical education models that don’t necessarily fall into a traditional school setting.
The Perkins Act, which dates to 1984, has not been updated since 2006. During that time, K-12 educational models encouraging STEM and other career-specific education have shifted.
The National Manufacturers Association (NAM) supported the bill, sending a letter in its favor signed by 500 of its member companies.
According to NAM, the bill “strengthens the use of industry-recognized credentials in educational programs to align with employers’ needs, putting it in harmony with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It also promotes work-based learning and allows funds to be used towards the purchase of needed manufacturing equipment, as well as certification exams upon completion of training.”
While most Perkins funds are distributed to schools on a formulaic basis, states can now use up to 15% of their Perkins funding to set up competitive grants programs and experiment with emerging career and technical education (CTE) models.
The Association for Career and Technical Education issued a statement calling the bill’s passage “an important step toward reauthorizing the primary federal legislative investment in Career Technical Education.” ACTE said the changes would promote more innovation and program alignment, “all within a framework of streamlined administrative requirements and a more intentional focus on local needs.
“The legislation will ultimately help fuel the talent pipeline and prepare workers for the high-skill, high-wage, high-demand careers of the 21st century,” the statement read.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where NAM and other organizations are pushing for its passage by the end of the year.