Vt. lawmakers aim to make tech ed more equitable

Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 6:11 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - First Lady Jill Biden’s visit to Beta and discussions with tech ed students Wednesday comes as Vermont lawmakers are looking to streamline and improve the funding and governance of the state’s 15 career technical education centers.

At the Central Vermont Career Center in Barre, Will Rush and his classmates are putting the finishing touches on an HVAC system in a model home.

“I didn’t do well in the classroom and I know a lot of other people didn’t. and it’s nice to do hands-on stuff where you’re getting something out of it instead of knowing what a cell is made out of,” Rush said.

Down the hall, students in the automotive technology shop are working to restore a classic Mustang. “Some mechanics you’d hear, ‘Oh it’s a pain, it’s difficult.’ But I think it’s fun to work with,” said Cameron Raspe of Barre.

Meanwhile, McKenna Gokey is in the medical professions class, with an eye on working in an urgent care clinic. “I went from being in my history class, writing every day, to being hands-on and drawing blood at school,” she said.

The career center attached to Spaulding High School prepares young Vermonters by offering training in 14 programs, from home construction to cosmetology to culinary arts

“The CTEs are delivering a higher class individual so they are better prepared for that workforce and that career path,” said Richard Wobby with the Associated General Contractors of Vermont

But CTE centers in Vermont have complex funding and governance structures, and depending on where students live, not every program has the same educational opportunities.

“We’ve come to this spot right now -- which maybe it’s a good time to look at it again -- and to see going forward what’s the best way to educate our Vermont students,” said Rep. Stephanie Jerome, D-Brandon.

Seven committees at the Statehouse Wednesday were briefed on recommendations from a new report to shore up the CTE system. They include approaching CTE education from a statewide workforce development lens, creating a fund to update facilities and equipment, and bringing all CTE students into the statewide Education Fund using a weighted formula. The overall goal is to make access and education more equitable.

Officials say the recommendations will give them a template of how to improve the state’s workforce launchpad over the next year.

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