Senator Dave Schatz’s Column for the Week of Aug. 18

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One of the most important aspects of being a lawmaker is being able to help ensure there are educational opportunities for all Missourians. Students, of all ages, deserve to have an opportunity to pursue any profession they wish. By being able to offer trainings to help prepare students for the workforce we only strengthen our education system, economy and citizens.

Last session, we passed Senate Bill 620, which will advance career and technical education (CTE) in Missouri high schools by allowing students to earn a Career and Technical Education certificate in addition to a high school diploma.

One thing all employers from across the state can agree on is the need for a skilled workforce. Career and technical education is absolutely critical to ensuring that these employers have the skilled and trained employees they need.

Making the opportunity available for students to graduate with this certification, in addition to their diploma, will allow them to more quickly enter the workforce and will allow employers to work more closely with high schools to focus career and technical education programs.

The legislation also requires the State Board of Education to establish minimum graduation requirements for a CTE certificate. The Board of Education and the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council will establish minimum requirements for a CTE certificate.

While statewide boards and commissions will help determine the overall requirements, each local school district will form the curriculum, programs and classes based on the needs and interests of students in each district. The state education department will develop a process for recognition of a school district’s CTE certificate program. Students entering high school in the 2017-2018 school year will be eligible for a CTE certificate.

These programs help prepare students by providing them with the necessary skills to enter the workforce, technical school, or a two- or four-year college or university. Career and technical education programs also provide a benefit to the state as they allow for a qualified labor force to fill in-demand jobs in the Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) fields, health care and various trade specific careers.

Missouri already has an established CTE system, and is made up of over 437 high school districts. In the 2014-2015 school year, over 250,000 high school students and adults participated in career education training programs.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.