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Educational success is about more than just a degree

For far too long, there has been a discrepancy in what students are learning in the classroom and what employers say they need in the workplace. The passage of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014 was an important step for the millions of Americans who are looking for work and for the employers who have job opportunities that remain vacant due to the skills gap. However, great jobs are still going unfilled, Americans are still missing out on rewarding careers and many businesses are still suffering.

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act has provided federal support to state and local career and technical education programs for more than 30 years. This week the House will consider H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which updates the law to reflect today’s economic needs and the challenges that students and workers currently face.

{mosads}In particular, I’m pleased that the bill streamlines the number of performance measures for postsecondary programs and aligns them with the performance measures in WIOA, retaining that law’s precedent-setting accountability standards that let taxpayers and lawmakers see clearly which programs work – and which programs don’t.

One of the reasons students pursue education is to develop the necessary skills to find a job, preferably a career, in a chosen field. It’s the same objective whether the student is pursuing a medical degree at an Ivy League university or taking automotive performance courses at the local community college. This bipartisan bill goes a long way toward ensuring that individuals who pursue a technical education have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

Unfortunately, there is often an unnecessary prejudice attached to career and technical education. It’s frequently referred to as the “other” track, with the incorrect implication that it’s the path individuals take if they won’t be able to handle the rigors of a four-year college. In reality, students who pursue CTE complete a diverse curriculum where they learn important life skills such as problem-solving, research, time management and critical thinking. They are more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates than their university-bound counterparts. We should be celebrating those achievements and studying how we can translate them across the board.  

We need to shift our perspective away from the idea that every student must attend a four-year program to succeed. Educational success is about more than just a degree. It’s about preparing students for a satisfying life and teaching them the quantifiable skills that employers need in their employees. The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act will help students reach those goals.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx represents North Carolina’s 5th District and is the chair of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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