Career, technical education lifts up lives
At my recent visit to Anvil Academy in Newberg, I met a student with a learning disability who is using woodworking skills to start his own business. Another powerful success story came from Tigard-Tualatin Superintendent Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith, who told me about how a student experiencing profound poverty and homelessness was transformed by an auto mechanics class and is now in college studying to become a mechanical engineer.
Career and technical education can foster transformative learning experiences like these by giving students an opportunity to explore and develop their talents.
One of the highlights of my job is hearing from students about their passions. When I visit career and technical education classes like the Auto Tech program at Beaverton's Aloha High School or Newberg High School's high-tech computer design lab, I see students learning real-world skills in a hands-on environment. In these classrooms, students' eyes light up when they talk about their goals for the future. Career and technical education classes, also called CTE, are engaging students and preparing them for success in and after high school — regardless of what path they take.
Improving our public education system is a top priority of mine in Congress, and I've worked to expand access to CTE and to increase the federal investment in these important programs. That's why I was proud to help pass the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a law that will provide additional funding for states to adapt CTE classes to the needs of their communities and provide students with engaging classes that will help them develop their interests.
Today's CTE classes boost high school graduation rates, give students the opportunity to learn real-world skills, and enrich their educational experience. The range of classes is broader and more diverse than when I went to high school. They include fisheries biology, winemaking, computer design, welding, culinary arts and health care — all important skills for jobs in Northwest Oregon.
Students thrive when they can approach problems creatively. The new CTE law includes my amendment to support student creativity by encouraging the integration of art and design into CTE classes. With this addition, the next generation of students will be engaging both halves of their brains, leading to more originality and innovation.
This new law will also provide more funding at a time when too many of our schools struggle with limited resources. As a parent volunteer when my children attended public schools in Beaverton, I saw how budget cuts forced schools to cut programs for the arts, music, second languages, and often career and technical education. It has taken decades to reverse that trend and re-invest in these programs, and I'm looking forward to seeing the positive results.
Additionally, the new CTE law will foster collaboration between schools and key stakeholders—including businesses, parents and higher education institutions. Now industries and schools can work together more effectively to align what students are learning with what businesses need so graduates will have in-demand skills and make it more likely that they can find fulfilling and productive jobs in their area.
And finally, in an increasingly complex world, there is great benefit to giving students an educational opportunity to show individuality, to create things, to collaborate, and to see their potential.
We all have a responsibility to help young people succeed and find their place in the world. As a leader on the Education and the Workforce committee, I take that responsibility very seriously. I'm proud to have helped craft a new future for career and technical education that will prepare students for success throughout their lives.
Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici is
a Beaverton resident. Her district includes Washington County.
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