Congress is back in session, which means rumors that the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is about to be reauthorized are making the rounds. We’ve been here before, and a quick reauthorization seems no more likely this fall than it was this summer, last spring, or last year. That said, we’re making progress. This summer, the House passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. No one expects that bill to pass unchanged through the Senate, so there is still a lot of work ahead – and opportunities to make it even better.
That’s a good thing because, while the House bill makes a number of important improvements to the existing law, it also misses an opportunity to strengthen connections between our CTE and Registered Apprenticeship systems. In fact, the word apprenticeship does not appear once in the House bill, despite lots of attention to expanding work-based learning opportunities. While apprenticeship is certainly a form of work-based learning, we think there is value to giving it more explicit attention in the next version of the law.
New America has developed some recommendations for reforms to existing legislation that create more opportunities for state and local governments to support apprenticeship. The full brief is attached at the bottom of this post. It provides a set of concrete recommendations for reforms to the Perkins Act in the following four areas:
- Definitions: Including definitions and more explicit references to apprenticeship in the law, making apprenticeship more visible and more clearly aligning the law with other federal education and training programs.
- National Activities: Leveraging the Secretary’s authority over national activities to promote and test new incentives for greater and more widespread alignment between Career and Technical Education and apprenticeship.
- Financing Dual Enrollment Apprenticeship Pathways: Identifying opportunities to leverage CTE dual enrollment strategies to enable the development of apprenticeship programs that start in high school and extend into postsecondary.
- Integration with Postsecondary Degree Pathways: Structuring accountability and funding criteria to incentivize the development of more Registered Apprenticeship programs that also culminate in an associate’s degree.
The separation between our apprenticeship and CTE systems is one of the reasons we have so few apprentices in the United Sates. In countries with large and high-performing systems, apprenticeship and CTE are one and the same, and provided primarily through the school system in partnership with employers. By contrast, most apprentices in the U.S. have to find an apprenticeship opportunity outside of school. Perkins reauthorization creates an opportunity for Congress to bring these two system closer together. Let’s hope they don’t miss it.