Federal funding boosts COD's CTE programs

 
By Ann Rondeau
College of DuPage
Posted10/5/2018 10:15 AM
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  • U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi visits the innovative learning labs at the College of DuPage Technical Education Center with college President Ann Rondeau.

    U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi visits the innovative learning labs at the College of DuPage Technical Education Center with college President Ann Rondeau. Courtesy of College of DuPage

We are extraordinarily fortunate. During the past two years, Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Glenn "G.T." Thompson of Pennsylvania championed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a bipartisan bill and the first reauthorization of the Perkins CTE Act since 2006.

Both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the new act, nicknamed "Perkins V," and at the end of July, it was signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Providing resources for CTE programs, or Career and Technical Education, across the country, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is important legislation that provides federal support that helps fund state and local CTE programs.

Perkins V goes into effect July 1, 2019, and covers six years, through June 30, 2015. Funding will increase during these years, up to $1.3 billion by 2024, while major reforms strengthen what is in place, including special emphasis on career paths. This includes expanding career exploration beyond high school into middle school.

The Perkins CTE Act is vitally important. Community colleges are primary providers of CTE programs, which cover the skilled trades, applied sciences and technology.

According to the Illinois Community College Board, roughly two-thirds of all Illinois community college graduates last year earned a degree or certificate in a CTE field. The board states that CTE programs "provide a pathway from education to employment, not only for recent high school graduates, but also for returning adults, veterans and incumbent workers."

I cannot stress enough how essential Perkins funding is to College of DuPage and other community colleges across the country. In fiscal 2019, College of DuPage received $1.403 million through a formula that considers the number of students eligible for Pell Grants who declare interest in a CTE program.

We are thoughtful about how this funding is used at the college. For example, our Business and Technology Division houses such programs as accounting, automotive, business/management, computer information systems, computer and internet-working technologies, electronics, electromechanical technology, horticulture, HVACR, manufacturing, marketing, office technology, paralegal and welding.

In these programs, Perkins supports a variety of initiatives, including professional development opportunities for faculty, staff and administrators; equipment purchases that ensure our teaching labs align to industry standards; student skills development through competitions such as computer gaming and cybersecurity; and pilot positions for lab assistants and CTE retention specialists.

Several recent projects include developing basic physics/thermodynamic trainers that allow students in multiple disciplines to see and experience the mysteries behind water flow, water pressure, and open vs. closed systems.

A new HVACR Building Automation classroom/lab helps students to understand open architecture programming and building automation devices, preparing them to enter the building automation industry.

Finally, the HVACR Steam System Lab incorporates modern controls and efficiency improvements.

Steam education is scarce in the United States, and this lab helps students understand steam and how to efficiently operate and control steam systems.

These are a few examples of how the college uses Perkins funding. In addition, the state provides an unrestricted match that goes into the college's operating fund, which means COD received close to $3 million in fiscal 2019.

Other reforms in Perkins V require schools to consult with business and workforce experts to make sure curriculum aligns with local and in-demand careers, something College of DuPage already does well through program advisory boards that consist of industry professionals.

Perkins V also allows states to spend money on vocational and college-bound students, including dual enrollment programs, and strengthens workforce development integration by aligning with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

I sincerely thank our lawmakers, especially U.S. Rep. Krishnamoorthi, for understanding the importance of this legislation. Reauthorizing and reforming the Perkins Act recognizes the significance of CTE programming while increasing the necessary funding to help community colleges provide the most relevant teaching and learning that reflects an ever-changing, dynamic workforce.

The beneficiaries are the students. Their success depends upon the skills we teach them and the access to opportunities we can provide.

• Ann Rondeau is the president of the College of DuPage. Her column appears monthly in Neighbor.

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