Reauthorized in 2006, the Carl D. Perkins Act allocates federal grants to states for distribution to secondary school districts and post-secondary institutions. The purpose of the hearing was to examine the Carl D. Perkins Act and others like it to determine what reforms should be made to best serve those seeking to enter the technical workforce. Witnesses included:
• Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
• Paul Tse, project manager, Shapiro & Duncan Inc.
• Jason Bates, manager, Toyota Bodine Aluminum Inc.
• Dr. Monty Sullivan, president, Louisiana Community and Technical College System
Throughout the hearing, the witnesses and members recounted personal examples of the value of local career and technical education programs. They explained how quality training benefits not only the students, but their community and the specific industry overall.
“Toyota’s direct and indirect employment needs in the U.S. are significant,” Bates said. “In fact, they are much like other large-scale, engineering-based and advanced manufacturing companies in the United States. Consequently, Toyota faces formidable challenges arising from our country’s skills gap.
“By ‘skills gap,’ I mean the mismatch between the demands of a rapidly changing workplace and the shortfalls in the academic preparations that young people have acquired in high school and college. For example, the job of a maintenance technician at Toyota Bodine is very different today than it was 15 years ago. In the past, a technician likely focused on just one craft, say electrical. Today, that technician is expected to perform multiple tasks such as electrical, fluid power and mechanical. In the 10 years my plant has been operational, we were never at 100 percent employment in this job category– that is, until now, thanks to the collaborations we have with the local education system.”
The members of the committee echoed the witnesses’ concerns. In his opening statement, Rep. John Kline, chairman, R-Minn., said, “This is an important conversation to have now because an anemic economy has made good-paying jobs hard to come by… For young people entering this kind of job market, having the right skills and experience is essential. Career and technical education programs can provide these critical tools, and we have to ensure federal support for these programs is delivered in the most efficient and effective manner possible."