Education Department seeks renewed funding for vocational training

By Amy R. Connolly  |  March 9, 2016 at 2:11 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- Acting Education Secretary John B. King called Wednesday for the reauthorization of the Perkins Act, a decades-old funding program that supports career and technical education in high school and beyond.

Last renewed in 2006, the program, formally called the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, funnels more than $1.1 billion to vocational training programs through high schools and some post-secondary institutions nationwide. In making the call, the Obama administration hopes to create stronger incentives for quality career and technical education, integrate academic and vocational programs in the classroom and develop uniform definitions and measures of student achievements and outcomes.

"We've come a long way from what we used to refer to as vocational education. Today, every job that leads to a secure future requires critical thinking, problem solving and creativity, as well as some postsecondary education or training," King said, speaking at Digital Harbor Foundation Tech Center in Baltimore, Md.

"The best career and technical education programs help students prepare for this future once they graduate from high school. Career and technical education is not just about preparing some students for successful lives and careers, it's about giving all students the tools to shape our future," he said.

Career and technical training is seen as an alternative pathway for students who don't see college as their best course. Gone are the days of old-school vocational education, when it was not considered rigorous or relevant enough for students to have successful livelihoods, the Department of Education said.

Career and technical training is also seen as a means to lowering the overall student-debt load. Instead of being funneled into college with no clear direction, students may choose vocational training that will lead more immediately to sustainable employment.

The New York Federal Reserve recently reported outstanding student loan debt stood at $1.23 trillion nationwide, with 11.5 percent 90 days or more delinquent in payments. College costs have skyrocketed in the past decade, but many graduates continue to have difficulty finding well-paying jobs to offset the cost of their loans.

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