September 15, 2017

Wyden, Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Address Workforce Shortages through Career and Technical Education

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., joined Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., to introduce the bipartisan Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act, to give middle school students better access to career and technical education (CTE) programs focused on career exploration.

The Middle STEP Act would establish a pilot program that allows middle schools to partner with colleges, other postsecondary institutions and local businesses to develop and implement CTE exploration programs that give students access to apprenticeships or project-based learning opportunities that are traditionally not available to students until high school or higher education. The bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Bob Casey, D-Penn., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Mark Warner, D-Va.

“Students who take career and technical education (CTE) classes graduate from high school at higher rates and are more prepared to get good-paying jobs beyond the classroom,” Wyden said. “I have seen first-hand what these can do for high school students in Oregon and it’s time to expand access to these programs for younger students. Providing middle school students with CTE opportunities will help push our young people to the forefront of innovation in an increasingly competitive and technologically advanced world.”

In addition to providing students with access to apprenticeships or project-based learning opportunities, middle school CTE programs funded through the Middle STEP Act would give students access to career guidance and academic counseling to help them understand the educational requirements for high-growth, in-demand career fields. Programs would help students draft a high school graduation plan that demonstrates what courses would prepare them for a given career. The programs must also provide a clear transition path from the introductory middle school program to a more narrow focus of CTE study in high school and must be accessible to students from economically disadvantaged, urban and rural communities.

“In today’s competitive global economy, it is important that students have opportunities to explore, plan and pursue high-skill, high-demand, high-wage careers beginning in middle school,” said LeAnn Wilson, the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education. “We proudly endorse the Middle STEP Act because it will give middle school students an early advantage by providing them with the tools to succeed through project-based learning opportunities, apprenticeships, and career guidance and academic counseling.”

The Middle STEP Act is endorsed by the Association for Career and Technical Education, Association for Middle Level Education, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, Alliance for Excellent Education and Advance CTE. Wyden also cosponsored the bill in the 114th Congress.

Find bill text for the Middle STEP Act here.