States Focus on Vocational Education

Construction is predicted to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In order to meet this demand, states have begun to enact new legislation and programs aimed at increasing the number of students attending vocational and technical education programs.

In 2017, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill that made community and technical college tuition free for adults, which expanded a similar program for recent high school graduates. California allocated $200 million in funding to promote and improve accessibility to vocational training, including $6 million for a campaign to reduce the stigma against technical education.

Additional states are also seeking to increase interest and accessibility to technical education. The Washington State Auditor’s Office recently released a report offering recommendations to improve the state’s secondary vocational education, which includes strengthening the focus on technical education as early as middle school. This February, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled a $100 million plan to promote education. Programs in other states also take aim at this issue, including Iowa, Maine, and others.

Congress is also working to get more students into vocational training. A bipartisan bill on the issue is currently pending. The Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act of 2017 aims to allow Pell Grants to be used for short term job training programs. Pell Grants are already eligible for use on programs that are at least 600 clock hours or 15 weeks, but there are many others that are shorter than this minimum. According to a press release by Sen. Tim Kaine, one of the bill’s sponsors, there are around 50 programs that fit into this category in Virginia alone.