The House of Representatives today approved legislation to give a higher priority to career and technical education in Rhode Island, an area considered of paramount importance to the state’s economic recovery.
The legislation passed today, 2014-H 8204A, sponsored by Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), proposes to create a Rhode Island Career and Technical Board of Trustees and a Rhode Island Career and Technical Education Trust – both entities with an explicit focus on improving career and technical education in the state and working in partnership with employers to develop internships and other student-learning opportunities.
“A number of economic indicators continue to suggest that while our state’s economy is recovering, it is not regionally competitive,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. “We have made important strides to make our state a good place to do business, and those efforts must continue. One area of concern is the state’s treatment of its career and technical education.”
Reports from the Governor’s Workforce Board, said Representative McNamara, say that Rhode Island’s demand for middle-skill employment is anticipated to grow over the next few years, but the labor force’s supply of middle-skill workers if not projected to meet the demand.
“We need to take a strong and bold approach to career and technical education to meet this work-skill gap,” said Representative McNamara. “We need that bold action not just from the public sector, but from the private sector as well to improve the state’s approach to CTE, to elevate the important of CTE. That is what this legislation aims to do.”
The Career and Technical Board of Trustees, as proposed by the legislation, is a modification of an existing statutory organization, the State Advisory Council on Vocational Education that has not been operational for several years. Effective January 30, 2015, the powers, rights, obligations and duties of the Advisory Council would be transferred to the new Board of Trustees, which would be a 13 member body composed of the Secretary of Commerce, seven members representing the private employment sector and five members representing secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.
Among its responsibilities, the Board of Trustees would advise the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Education on the development of a biannual state plan for CTE as well as on policies the state should pursue to strengthen and modernize CTE, and establish, support and expand private sector participation programs that enhance CTE at the local level.
The Board of Trustees would also take control and management of state-owned and operated CTE schools, at the request of a local school committee or its equivalent, and take control of other CTE schools as agreed to by local education districts. The trustees would be required to prepare a plan that examines and makes recommendations over the management of the CTE school, the management of other state-owned facilities for the sole purpose of offering CET programs, and the methods of assuming ownership and management of CTE facilities.
As proposed by the legislation, the Career and Technical Education Trust, which would become effective November 1 of this year, would be a permanent, not-for-profit corporation made up of seven individuals representative of the private sector, the Secretary of Commerce and a member of the Governor’s Workforce Training Board.
Functions of the Trust include creating partnerships with employers to provide for internships, apprenticeships, voluntary work relations and other student-learning based partnerships; providing advisory assistance to the board in the development of programs and curriculum; and raising funds to provide grants and loans to the state board.
The Governor’s Workforce Board, a coalition representing thousands of employers and employees, has expressed concern about the ability of Rhode Island’s current CTE system to meeting the skills-gap challenge, because of inefficient resources, duplicative programming and uncompetitive results, said Representative McNamara.
“The legislation approved today in the House is a giant stride toward making CTE relevant and effective, for students and potential employers,” said Representative McNamara. “Our goal of bringing good jobs to Rhode Island must be coupled with a determination to prepare workers for those jobs. A new approach to career and technical education is a must, and this bill provides that new approach.”
The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration. It is co-sponsored by Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 14, Cranston), House Majority Leader John J. DeSimone (D-Dist. 5, Providence), Rep. Karen L. MacBeth (D-Dist. 52,Cumberland) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).
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