“I hadn’t taken an algebra class in 40 years,” community college student Jennifer DeLange told Secretary Duncan yesterday morning at a White House Rural Council Roundtable in Waterloo, Iowa. DeLange spent years working in a plastics factory, but when the plant shut down, she found herself unemployed in a tough job market. With the help of Trade Adjustment Assistance, DeLange enrolled at Hawkeye Community College and is working her way through the school’s LPN program.
The Hawkeye roundtable discussion was the first event during the second day of Duncan’s visit to the Midwest, and included Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Executive Director for the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers at the Department of Labor, Jay Williams, as well as students, faculty and business leaders.
The roundtable discussion centered on the importance of improving rural economies by training and retraining workers for in-demand careers. During the discussion, Williams spoke to the importance of career training, explaining that “not everyone is going to get a four-year degree, but you have to have skills beyond high school.” Read more about the Obama Administration’s Community College to Career proposal that would train two million workers for in jobs in high-demand industries.
Transforming Career and Technical Education
Duncan’s second stop of the day was at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa, where he joined Brenda Dann-Messier, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, to release the Obama Administration’s blueprint for transforming Career and Technical Education (CTE).
“It’s no surprise that rigorous, relevant, and results-driven CTE programs are vital to preparing students to succeed in the global economy of the 21st century,” Duncan said at the event.
Through a $1 billion investment in the Obama Administration’s FY 2013 budget, the Administration’s blueprint for reauthorizing the Perkins Act will transform the Perkins program in four key areas:
- Alignment: Ensuring that the skills taught in CTE programs reflect the actual needs of the labor market so that CTE students acquire the 21st century skills necessary for in-demand occupations within high-growth industry sectors.
- Collaboration: Incentivizing secondary schools, institutions of higher education, employers, and industry partners to work together to ensure that all CTE programs offer students high-quality learning opportunities.
- Accountability: Requiring CTE programs to show, through common definitions and related performance measures, that they are improving academic outcomes and enabling students to build technical and job skills.
- Innovation: Promoting systemic reform of state-level policies to support effective CTE implementation and innovation at the local level.
Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier, who outlined the four key areas above, explained that “our federal investment in CTE must be dramatically reshaped to fulfill its potential to prepare all students, regardless of their background or circumstances, for further education and cutting-edge careers.”