Merkley Introduces Legislation to Boost Career and Technical Education in K-12 Schools

WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced the introduction of the BUILD (Building Understanding, Investment, Learning, and Direction) Career and Technical Education Act of 2013. This new legislation will provide grants to support state efforts to restart career and technical education programs that have been scaled back or eliminated.

“As shop classes and electives disappear across Oregon, our students are getting shortchanged,” said Merkley. “I went to the same high school that my own kids attend today. I was fortunate then to receive a public education that exposed me to different skills and career paths. I’ve heard from manufacturers across Oregon that our state’s economy would be stronger if more kids were graduating with technical skills, so that’s what this bill aims to do.”

As K-12 school budgets have been slashed during the recession, many schools in Oregon and across the nation have cut back on vocational education and other hands-on electives. The legislation aims to reverse that trend and give middle school and high school students the opportunity to explore a variety of different hands-on classes. It also will improve collaboration between schools and business to make these programs authentically reflective of our current job market. These CTE grants will broaden and inform student attitudes on a variety of potential professions such as construction technology, marketing, accounting, graphic design, early childhood education, and manufacturing. 

Last year, Senator Merkley went on a Made in Oregon tour to see Oregon manufacturers in action and hear directly about the opportunities and challenges they faced. Many Oregon manufacturers told him that one of their challenges is finding a qualified workforce with hands-on training, such as that provided by shop classes.

The BUILD Career and Technical Education Act of 2013 will provide additional funding support for state efforts such as Oregon’s successful Career and Technical Education (CTE) Revitalization Grant program.  Specifically, this legislation provides $20 million in new federal funding to establish a 2 year pilot grant program supporting career and technical education programs in middle schools and high schools.  Under the legislation, grants will go directly to school districts, allowing them a significant amount of flexibility and control to ensure the programs under their authority are rigorous, innovative, sustainable, and truly prepare students to explore careers and skills required to enter in-demand careers. 

Merkley announced his intent to author the legislation this spring while meeting with students at the Boise-Eliot/Humbolt School in North Portland.