Spinal Column: February is Career and Technical Education Month

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By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

In Michigan, and here in the southeast part of the state, we have a long and storied history of manufacturing greatness. Automobile production has driven much of the state’s success, and today the auto industry continues to play a critical role in our economy, with Michigan being home to more than 330 companies engaging in automotive research and development.

These businesses spend $11 billion annually on research and development. A significant part of that R&D money will now go toward technology surrounding autonomous vehicles. Michigan has modernized guidelines for driverless vehicle research and operation. This will keep the state at the cutting edge of automobile technology innovation, growth and design.

With much of the U.S. economy evolving to a new era of advanced technologies, career and technical education (CTE) programs have become essential to the economic success of future generations. Career and technical education prepares individuals to be college- and career-ready by providing core academic skills, employability skills and technical job-specific skills.

February is Career and Technical Education Month. CTE Month is held each year to celebrate career and technical education and the achievements and accomplishments of CTE programs across the country.

In Michigan, career and technical education is designed as part of Michigan’s career preparation system to provide learners with experiences, knowledge and skills that will prepare them to choose and obtain employment upon high school completion. CTE is a way of closing the skills gap, expanding economic opportunities and improving student outcomes.

The Senate has continually focused on legislation that promotes CTE and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Michigan. Available STEM-related jobs continue to increase — illustrating the importance CTE programs will have in our educational system in the decades to come. Since 2010, the growth rate of STEM employment in Michigan has outpaced the growth seen in all other occupational employment, and this trend is expected to continue through 2020.

I co-sponsored legislation that requires the state to provide job training subsidies for certain employers through community colleges. The jobs must pay 175 percent of the minimum wage, and the partnership between community colleges and employers has created almost 12,000 new jobs since it began.

In addition, we have passed legislation that allows students to meet certain graduation requirements by completing CTE courses and programs. The legislation also ensures that Michigan students and parents are made aware of the ability to create a “personal curriculum” built in part around CTE courses and programs.

The Senate has recognized the importance of both CTE and STEM education, which have an immediate and positive impact on those students who choose to participate in them, and we will continue to focus on legislation encouraging these programs.

For more information about CTE and what it can mean for you or your children, please visit www.acteonline.org to learn more.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.