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One Size Fits Some When Career and Technical Education Makes Sense

As a mother of four boys, I learned quickly that our children’s interests aren’t always the same. My son Josh used to entertain himself by taking his truck apart in the driveway and putting it back together. The success rates of his reassembly were hit-and-miss back then, but seeing his interest in mechanics helped us guide him in making decisions about his future. He’s now a machinist helping to make ventilator components.

A four-year college isn’t for everyone. Our students deserve options and support in choosing a path that inspires them. My priority has always been to nurture my sons as individuals, and when Josh started looking at his options after high school, we knew how important it was for him to consider career and technical education (CTE) programs.

Since I was elected to serve Minnesota’s Second Congressional District in Congress in 2018, I’ve visited many of the CTE facilities in our region and met the students enrolled in these programs. These students didn’t see a four-year college as their choice, but CTE programs have been the right fit. They’ve provided resources to learn and earn the skills and credentials needed for a job they can be excited about.

My visits to those CTE facilities, and my son Josh helped inspire me to introduce and co-sponsor several pieces of legislation to help Americans secure careers in high-demand fields that require CTE training. I believe Congress can help by fueling workforce training and apprenticeship partnerships between schools and local businesses to ensure that employers have a skilled workforce and all Americans have a fair shot at building their best life.

We must invest in CTE programs and rethink our education system to provide a full range of postsecondary opportunities to fill available job openings.

I have been pushing for these investments in economic opportunity since my first day in Congress and will continue to do so. One way I worked to invest in these values during my first year in Congress was to co-sponsor the JOBS Act, which would extend Pell Grant eligibility to include CTE and manufacturing degrees.

I introduced the 21st Century Workforce Partnerships Act to address a major need in the modern economy: hands-on training to prepare students for the high-skill jobs of today, while also ensuring that employers have enough trained workers to fill the thousands of current job openings in Minnesota. The bill expands and strengthens workforce partnerships between secondary schools, two-year colleges and trade schools, and local businesses. I’ve also co-sponsored the BUILDS Act, a comprehensive and in-depth apprenticeship bill to improve student outcomes and prioritize industry partnerships to build the workforce we need.

To keep the Minnesota economy strong, we need to re-envision the connections between our high schools, career skills and technical education programs, community partners, and employers. This is why I am focused on using innovative legislation to align these CTE programs with our existing job market so that students are prepared with the skills they need to thrive in the current economy.

As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have had the chance to champion and raise awareness of additional CTE opportunities. I passed an amendment highlighting the importance of CTE funding grants as part of a bipartisan House spending package and sent a letter to the committee pushing for the inclusion of CTE in any infrastructure package that the committee considers. I am also an original co-sponsor of the Promoting Service in Transportation Act, which will raise awareness of jobs available in the transportation industry.

Our country isn’t facing a shortage of lawyers or politicians, but we do need more mechanics, plumbers and welders. I’m proud to be advocating for CTE programs in my own family and in Congress. It’s time that we make sure all of our students have the options and support to pursue a career that interests them.

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