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The U.S. Senate has approved a major update to the nation’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) laws to address job training for local economies and ensure students have the skills needed in today’s economy.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act would reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for the first time in 12 years. The measure is now awaiting action in the House of Representative.

Senate passage comes as the nation faces a serious shortage of skilled labor: For the first time, more job openings are available than there are people looking for work. The shortage is particularly harmful to manufacturing.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), approximately 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled between 2015 and 2015 due to a lack of skilled workers.

The legislation would encourage states, schools and local CTE providers to update education and job training to meet the needs of the local economies, ensuring students have the skills needed to remain competitive.

It would also increase alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and promote collaboration between stakeholders so that local businesses can communicate their needs to states and educators as strategies and programs are developed.

As the National Association of Manufacturers explains, the Perkins CTE program supports work-based learning. By promoting the skills necessary in the modern economy, it is vital for the future of manufacturing.

NJBIA has been a partner with New Jersey’s CTE schools to encourage more employers to offer students work-based learning opportunities through the eight-year-old Employer Coalition for Career and Technical Education. The Association also supported the bill, along with 500 other businesses and organizations. Learn more here.