Perkins Act Offers Opportunities for Delaware Schools
Last reauthorized in 2006, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is the federal government’s largest investment in career training and the primary channel through which USED funds career and technical education (CTE) at the secondary and undergraduate levels. Recently, Secretary Duncan unveiled the Administration’s blueprint for reauthorizing the Perkins program for the next fiscal year, specifically emphasizing four key reforms:
- Alignment: Empower states to identify and concentrate on locally in-demand industries and encourage CTE programs to launch programs in these fields.
- Collaboration: Foster private-public collaboration between schools, universities, and employers through matching grant programs and consortia funding.
- Accountability: Increase states’ autonomy to recognize, fund, and accelerate high-performing CTE programs.
- Innovation: Create a competitive CTE innovation fund.
According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, Delaware currently offers public CTE instruction at both the secondary and post-secondary levels, serving approximately 26,000 and 11,000 students, respectively. In FY 2011, the state received $4.7 M from the Perkins CTE grant. Of the disbursed funds, 87% goes to secondary schools, slightly higher than the national average of 70%.
These key reforms echo the conversation that has been occurring locally and nationally around 21st century CTE. Already, several schools, both vocational and traditional, have begun aligning curricula and programming to the demands of the 21st century economy and seeking programmatic and financial support from local employers. A few years ago, for example, Conrad Middle School was re-launched as Conrad Schools of Science, a 6th-12th magnet school designed to meet the growing regional demand for biotech and allied health professionals. The school was able to rely on major employers in the Wilmington healthcare industry for support in funding the program, acquiring needed technology, and building the necessary capacity for implementation. The state’s three votechnical school districts, meanwhile, have fostered relationships with local industries to offer students hands-on experience and career mentoring within the school day.
At the curricular level, DDOE has developed crosswalks and integrated curricula for agriscience; family and consumer science; business, finance, and marketing; and technology education. Individual districts and schools have also piloted programs in a broad range of career paths, from culinary arts and cosmetology to sports medicine and digital media. Moving forward, the new Perkins blueprint will incentivize the state and districts to consult the BLS and other industry-projection models to best prepare students for the changing workforce.
According to Moody Analytics, Delaware is projected to see the largest growth over the next five years in education, health services, hospitality, financial services, and natural resources management. Likewise, a recent report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce predicts clear demographic and industry trends in Delaware. By 2018, the Georgetown report estimates, the state will experience significant growth in health sciences (20%), information technology (18%), and education (15%).
The changing economy has placed a greater responsibility on our career-education programs, particularly post-secondary retraining programs for those beginning a second career. Hopefully, changes to the Perkins CTE programs will focus, centralize, and accelerate much of the forward-thinking work already going on at the state, district, and school level.