NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up, funding for vocational training.
This is an issue with support from Republicans and Democrats in Congress—no small accomplishment. So last month, the House and Senate agreed to pass the Career and Technical Education Act. It’s named after a former congressman from Kentucky, Carl Perkins. So it’s also known as the Perkins Act.
President Trump signed it into law a week after the bill landed on his desk. He touted it at a technical high school in Tampa, Florida, where he called it a win for current and future American workers.
TRUMP: Whether you’re a high school student, or a late-career worker, there’s never been a better time to learn a trade, hone a skill, or pursue your dreams.
EICHER: Here to tell us more about the Perkins Act is WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones.
Leigh, good morning to you.
LEIGH JONES, NEWS EDITOR: Good morning, Nick.
EICHER: Give us some of the details of this bill.
JONES: Well, it’s not a new bill. Congress first passed the Perkins Act back in 2006, so this year’s vote just reauthorizes it. But, Congress did make some important improvements. The bill sets aside about a billion dollars in federal funds for vocational training programs at high schools and community colleges. But it gives states more control over structuring the programs and, more importantly, evaluating their success.
So, advocates say that will really help the program to be more nimble in responding to local workforce training needs.
EICHER: We have talked about Republicans and Democrats both supporting this bill—pretty broadly bipartisan bill. What’s behind all that?
JONES: Well, in some ways it’s a reaction to the college-for-all mentality. Education experts and lawmakers realize that not all students are college-bound, and so the country really needs to emphasize workforce training if we’re going to fill all the jobs that are soon going to be vacated by aging Baby Boomers.
I talked to Michael Petrilli. He’s president of education policy think-tank Thomas Fordham Institute. Let’s listen to a little bit of what he told me.
PETRILLI: I think a lot of us have come to understand that we made a big mistake decades ago when we really started to diminish the career and technical education programs that we had in our high schools. And there’s been this effort to bring them back and make them stronger to make sure that they lead to good jobs and meaningful opportunities.
JONES: Now, during his visit to Tampa Bay Tech, President Trump made that case by introducing one of the school’s former students. David Thompson graduated in 2014, and here’s what he had to say.
THOMPSON: I’m a pipe welder, and I’m telling this to the kids: You can have a trade, and you can be successful. I make over six figures a year. I’m 23. I love it.
EICHER: Alright, six figures a year is a lot of money for anybody, but certainly at age 23. So, Leigh, tell me, how do businesses feel about this particular legislation? Do they support the president’s push for more training like this?
JONES: Yeah, they do. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce really advocated for the Perkins Act as it was going through Congress, and then they applauded its passage. Executive Vice President Neil Bradley called it a significant achievement for America’s workers. Companies have signed onto the president’s pledge to American workers, which is all part of this push for vocational training. They include Walmart, UPS, IBM, Home Depot, General Motors, lots of big names here. And quite a few trade associations have signed on as well.
EICHER: WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones. Thank you so much, Leigh. Good to talk to you.
JONES: Thanks, Nick.