Advancing quality work-based learning through Perkins reauthorization


On Tuesday, June 26th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee plans to turn its attention to reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the federal legislation that governs secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE).

As our economy evolves, career and technical education is proving an effective strategy for preparing a competitive workforce. CTE, which is mostly offered in high schools, and community and technical colleges, aims to equip students with core academic, occupational, and employability skills necessary to succeed in our dynamic and changing economy.

The need to broaden access to high-quality CTE is one of a small handful of issues that enjoy bipartisan support in Washington today. In a time when congressional Republicans are focused squarely on reigning in the federal budget, many have expressed support for increasing funding for Perkins. But despite strong bipartisan support, it’s been more than a decade since Perkins has been reauthorized. In that time, we have experienced rapid technological advances, the creation of the information economy, and the birth and death industries after the Great Recession.

Ideological differences among HELP committee members regarding the Education Secretary’s authority on performance accountability stalled the consideration of Perkins reauthorization in past years. However, a fresh injection of bipartisanship, plus backing from the White House, has brought hope back into the process of reauthorizing the Perkins Act. Many are wondering if the Senate will follow in the footsteps of the House, which passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Actlast year with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The House bill proposed a number of helpful reforms to the law, including the incorporation of key definitions and performance indicators from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, another important federal program that supports occupational training for job seekers. These reforms will make it easier for states to align and coordinate their workforce development and CTE systems.

As the Senate takes up the Bill, we hope they will consider additional reforms that will strengthen connections between our CTE and national apprenticeship systems and create more opportunities for students to access high-quality work-based learning program. New America has developed a set of concrete recommendations for how to expand access to apprenticeships for CTE students, including:

  • Definitions: The House bill includes no mention of apprenticeship. The Senate should consider including a definition for apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and apprentice and include mentions of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship alongside mentions of work-based learning.
  • Innovation Funding: Consistent with the House Perkins bill, we recommend the Senate create an innovation fund that could encourage the development and evaluation of pilot programs that improve alignment between CTE and apprenticeship.
  • Financing Dual Enrollment Apprenticeship Pathways: We encourage the Senate to include Registered Apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeships that start in high school and continue into postsecondary as a type of dual enrollment program.
  • Integration with Postsecondary Degree Pathways: Create and structure funding and accountability to incentivize the creation of more Registered Apprenticeship programs that also include an associate’s degree

Work-based learning programs, such as apprenticeships, are an effective strategy for preparing youth and adults for middle-skill jobs, especially in growing industries like healthcare and information technology. On Thursday, June 28th, the Senate CTE Caucus and New America will host a briefing to explore how the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, as well as the Higher Education Act, can broaden access to high-quality work-based learning opportunities that result in the attainment of credentials with labor market value. If you are interested in attending this briefing, please be sure to register for this event using this link.