(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assembly Education Committee Chairman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. on Monday unveiled an 8-bill package to improve and expand New Jersey’s vocational school programs, citing it as key to making sure all New Jersey students are ready for work in today’s ever-changing economy.
Prieto had said when he became Assembly Speaker in January that improving vocational education would be one of his top priorities.
“While many focus on college and do not think about a technical career, we must make it clear that there are also many well-paying careers that can be launched with an industry credential or an associate’s degree,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “As our economy begins to grow again, employers will look to our county vocational-technical schools to meet this need, and we need to make sure our students are ready to go.”
“Vocational training can lead to apprenticeships and job opportunities in the trades for our youth who otherwise may be unemployed and adding to the poverty problem,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Improving vocational education for our next generation is common sense in today’s economy.”
· Require New Jersey school report cards to include indicators of student career readiness;
· Require preparation programs for teachers and school counselors to include coursework to support improved student career readiness;
· Authorize the Economic Development Authority to issue an additional $50 million in bonds to provide grants for county vocational school district facilities projects;
· Establish a four-year county vocational school district partnership grant program;
· Require all school districts and public colleges to enter into dual enrollment agreements to provide college-level instruction to high school students through courses offered on the college or high school campus;
· Provide that if a career and technical education program of a county vocational school district is taught in an industry setting, the off-site location will be exempt from certain state regulations;
· Provide additional state aid to county vocational school districts in which enrollment increases by more than 10 percent; and
· Provide state aid for adult education programs.
Prieto said he expects the bills to be heard by the Assembly Education Committee in the coming weeks.
Comments from Senate President Steve Sweeney:
“Our state’s vocational schools have long been overlooked when discussions about comprehensive education reform have taken place. That must end. Today’s students are not being provided the opportunities through technical and vocational schools that they should be. As a result, our workforce training and readiness has suffered.
“I want to thank the Speaker for his leadership on this issue and for putting our students first. I support his and Assemblyman Diegnan’s effort and will be seeking out Senate sponsors of their legislation as soon as possible.”
Comments from NJBIA Acting President Melanie Willoughby (NJBIA full news release):
“We are very supportive of the efforts by Speaker Prieto and Chairman Diegnan. Our goal is to make sure that businesses today have entry-level employees who are prepared for the modern workd of work and that workplaces have a pipeline of highly-skilled workers.
“Earlier this year the Speaker and Senate President Stephen Sweeney joined with NJBIA and the NJ Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools to launch the NJ Employer Coalition for Technical Education. The Coalition is aimed at promoting the value of a career and technical education and how it creates a great career pathway, develops a strong pipeline of employees and helps grow the economy in New Jersey.
“In many cases our members simply cannot find employees who have the right skills. We are very pleased the speaker is leading the way on this issue which is so important for the growth of the New Jersey economy.”
Comments from NJCCVTS President Dr. Howard Lerner, Superintendent of Bergen County Technical Schools (NJCCVTS full news release):
“We applaud Speaker Prieto and Assemblyman Diegnan for their leadership in recognizing career and technical education as both an economic and educational priority for New Jersey.
“At his January inauguration, and at the news conference announcing the launch of the NJ Employer Coalition for Technical Education in February, Speaker Prieto pledged to make the expansion of county vocational-technical schools a major priority during this legislative session. This comprehensive package of proposals will strengthen the workforce pipeline that our employers require, while providing opportunities for young people to succeed in a highly competitive economy.”
Comments from NJCCVTS Executive Director Judy Savage:
“Currently, on a statewide average, county vocational-technical high schools receive 2.5 applications for every available seat. Last year, more than 16,000 students seeking a career-focused high school education could not be accommodated.
“Many of the bills that the Speaker announced today will help expand the capacity of New Jersey’s county vocational-technical school districts. These programs are in high demand because students thrive when they are able to apply academic knowledge to their own career interests and goals. Enabling young people to learn and collaborate in a career-focused environment is real-world preparation for college and the world of work.
“The statewide county vocational-technical school community – including our 32,500 secondary students, their parents, our teachers and our business and educational partners – thanks the Speaker and Chairman Diegnan for their commitment to career and technical education. We look forward to working closely with them and with our employer partners at NJBIA and the NJ Employer Coalition for Technical Education on this exciting initiative.”