Merkley Announces Bill to Invest in Career and Technical Education

EUGENE, OR — Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley on Wednesday at Lane Community College announced that he will introduce the BUILD (Building Understanding, Investment, Learning and Direction) Career and Technical Education Act of 2018, which would provide grants to support state efforts to restart career and technical education programs in middle and high schools.

“Carpentry, automotive, welding and other classes help broaden students’ perspective on possible professions and keep them engaged in school. Yet these important classes continue to be reduced or eliminated as public school budgets are stressed,” Merkley said. “In high school I was fortunate to receive a public education that exposed me to different skills and career paths. Through the types of programs supported by this bill, students in Oregon and across the nation will be empowered to choose the education pathway that will lead to success in high school and beyond.”

“Engaging students in the breadth of career options through meaningful hands on instruction that career technical education provides is critical to overall student academic success and increasing graduation rates that result in building the workforce our community needs,” said Dr. Susan Rieke-Smith, superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, which has invested in career and technical education at its middle and high schools. “Springfield Schools could not be more pleased by the Senator’s long history of support for education. The introduction of this bill gives districts such as Springfield the fiscal support needed to ensure these programs are available in systematic and sustainable ways across our district.”

Career and technical education broadens and informs student attitudes on a variety of education paths and potential professions, such as construction technology, welding, automotive, industrial automation, visual and graphic arts design, and manufacturing engineering.

The BUILD Career and Technical Education Act of 2018 provides $20 million in new federal funding to establish a two-year pilot grant program supporting career and technical education exploration programs in middle schools and high schools. Unlike many existing grant programs, the application process established by this legislation explicitly takes into account the relative resources and capacity of each school district, so small and rural applicants won’t be at a disadvantage in the selection process. Additionally, grants established through the legislation would go directly to school districts, allowing a significant amount of flexibility to ensure the program under their authority are rigorous, innovative, sustainable, and will truly prepare students to explore careers and develop skills required to enter in-demand careers.

Merkley announced the BUILD Act of 2018 at a Lane County town hall in Eugene. It was his 336th town hall as a senator.