Career Technical Education programs are the future of our region and our entire economy. I do not understand why so many of my colleagues in Sacramento have a hard time understanding this fact.
This month’s fight in the legislature over CTE programs – a fight that could have stripped funding for programs like the Future Farmers of America and others – was an unnecessary and misguided attempt to eliminate something that represents a fundamental and pivotal investment in our future.
In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown made a similar proposal to eliminate CTE funding and FFA Incentive Grants. And, much like earlier this month, the governor was overwhelmed by a tremendous amount of disapproval from the Central Valley and other regions in the state which depend on funding these programs for their very future.
I do not understand why Sacramento, or Washington D.C. for that matter, continues to ignore its responsibility to the trades and agriculture. While I am pleased Gov. Brown has reinstituted this funding in his proposed budget, we should be past debating the priceless value of investing in CTE year-to-year. Put bluntly, it’s a common-sense investment that should be a bipartisan issue at every level of government.
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While I support the equal opportunity for every child to go to college, not every child ends up being equipped or ready to engage in higher education. We are so focused on shoveling kids into the university system that we are ignoring the real-world needs we have in the work force today.
Here is a hard reality check that few people want to hear in today’s politically correct world: not everyone has to go to college.
We have workforce deficits in such industries as medical, agriculture, public safety, electrical and engineering. Organizations and associations in these fields will tell you that those deficits are from a lack of qualified applicants – not a lack of demand for people to fill the positions.
We must do more to educate young adults about good employment and career opportunities. We must continue to back positive transitional education like apprenticeships, FFA and cadet programs. This is why I co-signed a bipartisan letter, along with other state legislators, calling on the governor to restore CTE and FFA funding in his May revise of the state budget.
It is also why I have authored AB 579, which creates a Firefighter Pre-Apprenticeship Program. This bill would require the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, in collaboration with the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee, to develop a statewide firefighter pre-apprenticeship program designed to recruit candidates with a focus on underrepresented groups. I am proud to have had bipartisan support on AB 579, which passed out of the Assembly unanimously 58-0 on May 30 and will now be considered by the State Senate.
Programs like CTE and bills like AB 579 are just the beginning of what we should be doing to bridge the gap between high school and good-paying industry jobs.
CTE, local apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, cadet programs, etc., are high-return investments for our economy. With baby boomers retiring at record rates, we have to backfill these vital jobs. Helping to educate and motivate millennials on the opportunities that come with good careers in these fields has to be a priority.
We need to stop the economic leakage here at home if we are to continue to survive economically in the future. We must fix the foundation of our economy and quit just paying for new paint for the walls of our economic house. For us to reinvigorate our local and state economies, we have to start with sound fiscal policy and a commitment to education in the industries that hold up our economy to begin with.
Heath Flora represents the 12th Assembly District, which includes Stanislaus and parts of San Joaquin County. He wrote this for The Modesto Bee.