Legislative Task Force on Workforce Education discusses funding, expanding industry’s reach into K-12 classrooms
‘Industry doesn’t feel welcome in the classroom,’ company reps say; lawmakers note that curriculum and assessments drive teachers’ decisions regarding instruction and coursework
LITTLE ROCK – The Legislative Task Force on Workforce Education Excellence met Monday afternoon to discuss the funding available for workforce development programs, as well as how to expand industry’s reach into classrooms.
According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Legislative Research, six state agencies currently receive a combined $248 million in state, federal and other funding to support programs that include workforce development activities.
- Department of Career Education
- Department of Workforce Services
- Department of Human Services
- Department of Higher Education
- Department of Labor
- Economic Development Commission
Four agencies reported that they do not receive any direct funding for workforce development. Those are:
- Department of Education
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Department of Correction
- Department of Community Correction
The Riverside Vocational Technical School, which oversees workforce training for prison inmates, receives appropriated funding specifically for that purpose.
According to survey results, the majority of the funding is dedicated to three areas:
- K-12 education
- Job training
- Career development
Funding also is, in descending order, allotted to:
- Support services
- Non-workforce development service
- Two-year or 4-year higher education
- Employer/business services
- Job placement
- Job search
- Technical school
- Work-based learning
To see the survey results, click here.
Senator Jane English, co-chairman of the task force, told members that their role is to look at and consider current resources and funding with the intent of developing a vision, goals and recommendations for future legislation.
At this point, Nate Klinck, vice president of Thomas P. Miller and Associates of Indianapolis, assumed the role of facilitator, asking task force members to share what they’ve learned from recent meetings and gatherings, as well as what models or programs they might want to see emulated.
(For more information about Klinck and his role, please review the September 20, 2017, minutes by clicking here.)
At Klinck’s prompting, task force members shared the following concerns/assertions:
- The trucking industry contends that none of Arkansas’ diesel mechanic schools are doing a “decent job” in teaching what the industry needs.
- Career awareness should begin much earlier in K-12 classrooms.
- The state’s current workforce education programs work in silos, which means there is no uniformity.
- Some schools are reluctant to let industries into their classrooms and schools.
- A lack of the accreditation and/or certification opportunities.
- A lack of awareness regarding existing programs and/or resources.
- There is a disconnect when it comes to pathways between secondary and post-secondary institutions.
Representative Dan Sullivan cautioned against adding additional burdens to public school teachers.
“A teacher’s day is pretty well mapped out,” he said. “I don’t know that our teachers have that much discretion to vary from what they do.”
Task force member Greg Taylor suggested that teachers are in a position to guide students to career pathways. He offered an example in which a teacher would encourage a student to take a course in technical writing instead of a composition course.
Sullivan, however, noted that if such a student then failed the composition portion of a state assessment, that failure “falls on the teacher.”
Task force member Mike Rogers suggested that there be “signing days” not only for student athletes, but also youth who opt to enter a specific profession. He also said, however, that students shouldn’t have to feel pressed to make a binding, lifelong decision.
“Education should be more like I-40 than a cul-de-sac,” he said, adding that even after graduation, people should feel like they can use on- and off-ramps to either further their post-secondary education or change careers.
“Instead of K-12, it should be K-100,” Rogers concluded.