The Perkins Career and Technical Education Program is a $1.1 billion dollar federal program that funds secondary and postsecondary career and technical education in the United States.
The Carl Perkins Act (CTE) was first authorized by Congress in 1984 with the express goal of providing individuals with the academic and technical knowledge and skills they need to prepare for careers in current or emerging employment sectors. The Perkins program was last reauthorized in 2006 (statutory language), when the iPhone did not exist and Facebook was still a novelty.
In the eight years since the last Perkins CTE Program reauthorization, our economy has experienced a tremendous transformation, becoming increasingly dependent on sharp and versatile minds well-versed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Currently, the most common uses of the program’s funds include occupationally-relevant equipment, vocational curriculum materials, materials for learning labs, curriculum development or modification, staff development, career counseling and guidance activities, efforts for academic-vocational integration, supplemental services for special populations, hiring vocational staff, remedial classes, and expansion of tech prep programs.
As Congress begins to explore reauthorization of the Perkins Act, policymakers should consider reforms that will modernize it to reflect our economy’s needs. Simple upgrades include:
- Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
- Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
- Increase student participation in experiential learning opportunities such as industry internships, apprenticeships and mentorships; and promote the use of industry-recognized credentials.
As you look at the course offerings, ask some of the following questions:
1) Are employers hiring graduates with the skills taught in the courses. If not, why is the course still offered? Compare the class subject to both the US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook which gives the number of jobs, outlook, and median pay for each occupation. In addition, look at the wanted adds for job listings in your area.
2) Does the course result in an industry-recognized certification?
3) Are courses arranged in to a program of study so that students can build from foundation competency to more advanced level? Is there any integration with local community colleges such as dual enrollment?
4) Internships and mentorships can contribute to vital soft skills. Are they part of the the course or curriculum?