Entries categorized "Policymaker Perspectives"

Policymaker Perspectives: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

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ACTE is re-launching our Policymaker Perspectives discussion series! In this first Policymaker Perspectives of 2023, ACTE’s Public Policy Department recently heard from Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), who represents Oregon’s First Congressional District.

BonamiciOfficalPhoto-smallRep. Bonamici joined the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus as the lead Democratic co-chair in the House of Representatives at the start of the 118th Congress in January 2023. She was first elected to the House in November 2011.

Rep. Bonamici attended Lane Community College and the University of Oregon. In Congress, she is a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. She is a committed advocate for policies that support our nation’s education and workforce development systems and works to advance legislation that supports CTE programs and the students they serve. Read on to learn more about the Congresswoman’s top CTE priorities!


ACTE: You attended Lane Community College in Lane County, Oregon. How did this experience shape your education and career path and your views and understanding of CTE today?

Rep. Bonamici: Community college changed my life. I would not be where I am today without the opportunities provided to me by Lane Community College. The two-year associate degree program I completed gave me confidence and provided an affordable higher education that opened doors and allowed me to pursue my passion of helping others.

Community colleges are a great starting point for many paths. I chose to continue my education at the University of Oregon, where I earned my undergraduate and law degrees. Many people receive the education and training they need to enter good-paying jobs directly after community college, including through the CTE programs they offer.

I was able to graduate from college with a manageable amount of debt using a combination of loans, grants, and work study. It is more difficult to do that today, but the affordability and value of a community college education continues to be significant. In my role as a senior member on the House Education Committee, I am committed to making opportunities like those I received through my community college education available to all, including by expanding and strengthening CTE programs.

 

ACTE: As a CTE Caucus co-chair, how will you work to advance legislation in support of high-quality CTE? What are some of your top policy priorities within CTE and workforce development?

Rep. Bonamici: I am always looking for ways to strengthen and expand CTE programs. The main source of federal funding for CTE is the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. I enthusiastically supported its reauthorization in 2018 and look forward to working with my friend and CTE Caucus Co-Chair Congressman GT Thompson on its update. I’m advocating for this bipartisan legislation to be responsive to the growing needs of CTE programs, students, and educators by supporting innovative programs, increasing access among historically underserved students, and fostering collaboration among schools, parents, colleges, and employers. 

I am also eager to leverage the historic federal investments in workforce development we have made in recent years. Last Congress, I helped pass the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and CHIPS and Science Act, and I was glad to help create more pathways to good-paying, family-wage jobs in the Inflation Reduction Act. Additionally, I worked with my colleagues on the Education Committee to advance the bipartisan National Apprenticeship Act reauthorization and a comprehensive reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, both of which would provide training and career services to help workers find and keep good jobs. These bills passed the House but not the Senate, and I will keep working to get them across the finish line.

 

ACTE: You represent Oregon’s First Congressional District. Can you pinpoint some of the innovative approaches to CTE in your district? What lessons can we learn from them?

Rep. Bonamici: Oregon is leading the way in making CTE programs more accessible – CTE Programs of Study exist in nearly every Oregon high school and at all 17 community colleges, providing opportunities to more than 150,000 students each year.

Portland Community College in NW Oregon is a leader in preparing students for careers in different in-demand industries, including aviation, construction, agriculture, semiconductors, and advanced manufacturing. Century High School, St Helens High School, and other schools in the district I represent engage their students in high-quality CTE programs that prepare them for good-paying jobs in a range of industries. St. Helens High School has eight different CTE programs, including auto repair and early childhood education. At Century High School I was able to meet with students participating in a semiconductor youth apprenticeship program that provides them hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment so they can learn the skills needed to land a high-quality, good-paying job in the semiconductor industry. Programs like these demonstrate the important role that industry and sector partnerships with K-12 schools and community colleges can play in building a diverse, skilled, and well-prepared workforce.

 

ACTE: How can members of the CTE community best work together with federal policymakers?

Rep. Bonamici: I encourage you all to tell your stories and share your experiences with Members of Congress and their staff. Stories are powerful – many people have spoken with me about how CTE programs have changed their lives. I have drawn from their powerful narratives and experiences to advocate for improving and expanding CTE programs. Talk about your successes with CTE programs and be candid about what you need from us. You can also express why it would be helpful to pass long-overdue reauthorizations of the National Apprenticeship Act and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and what priorities you hope to see included in an update of the Perkins Act. We can accomplish a lot by working together, and I am grateful for your tireless advocacy.


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The Association for Career and Technical Education is the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. Our mission is to provide educational leadership in developing a competitive workforce, and we strive to empower educators to deliver high-quality career and technical (CTE) programs that ensure all students are positioned for career success. Please contact us at [email protected].

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