Metal cutting demonstration at Cerritos College. (Photo Credti: John Guenther)
The California Legislature has taken a stand in support of the state’s career technical education (CTE) programs in hopes of increasing its skilled labor workforce.
This week, the California Assembly passed ACR-119 with bipartisan support. The resolution encourages the California Community Colleges Chancellor and CTE stakeholders to create at least three options to determine long-term funding needs for CTE and other workforce and training programs. The options are to be presented to the Legislature by April 1, 2015 so they can be considered for the 2015-2016 State Budget. The Senate unanimously passed the same measure last week.
“CTE programs prepare our students with the technical skills needed to meet the demands of business,” stated Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of Torrance, who authored the measure. “I hear from businesses in my district that can’t find the skilled force to keep their companies competitive.”
In the past several years, CTE has seen cutbacks of $500 million in programs that train students for good middle class jobs. That goes against the trend of a growing need for skilled labor in the state, where 14 percent of the jobs rely on CTE training and many employers have trouble finding qualified workers.
The passage of ACR-119 has been almost a year in the making for Muratsuchi. The assemblymember voiced a commitment to CTE at the 2013 California Economic Summit, a project of California Forward. In fact, boosting CTE funding, and thereby training a workforce for the growing number of skilled training jobs, is one of the initiatives of the Workforce Action Team.
Co-Director of the California EDGE Coalition, Rona Sherriff, said something needs to be done on a statewide level to boost CTE because of the cost issues facing the programs. “Many CTE programs are higher cost than other programs because of the higher equipment costs, the kind of developmental costs, the fact that many of these programs have fewer students in the classroom than more academic programs because they need more interaction between the student and the instructors.”
Sherriff also led the California Economic Summit’s Capitol Workforce Day panel on this topic earlier this month. She added, “This resolution will hopefully provide the impetus to start exploring ways to start to address this high cost issue in a more sustainable way.”
Muratsushi agreed, “We have limited resources, so it is essential that we address CTE’s long-term funding needs to give our students the skills to be competitive in today’s economy.”
What’s next for ACR-119? CTE advocates say it is now up to the Community Colleges Chancellor to start forming a task force to look into funding options. And, time is of the essence as he has less than one year to convene the panel, create the long-term funding options and present them to the Legislature.
Sherriff is looking to the future as she added, “We always thought this would be a thoughtful process that it would bring together stakeholders who could explore our current funding system and ways in which to sustain and grow these programs.”