Gaylord Herald-Times: New federal bill aims to increase awareness of diverse career paths

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, introduced a bill into the U.S. Senate last week that would use existing funds to give K-12 school counselors more training on the variety of career paths students can take after graduation.

The Supporting Useful Career Counseling in Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (SUCCESS Act) would start by training people who are studying to be counselors, on the alternative career paths available after high school. The bill emphasizes awareness of other options outside four-year college degrees.

These options could be choices like a two-year associate degree at a community college, apprenticeships or an adult education certificate.

Brian Pearson, Gaylord Community Schools superintendent, said counselors and social workers have a critical role in a student’s education.

“As schools continue to graduate an increased number of students who are career and college ready, counselors and social workers play an important role in helping those students develop post high (school) plans,” he said in an email. “The more they are trained about career and training options for students, the better they will be able to help students make good financial and programming decisions about their future.”

Peters said the bill would raise awareness of career and technical education (CTE) options available to students and help the workforce.

“I’ve heard from small business owners across Michigan that are looking to hire more workers but are having difficulty finding employees with the necessary skills to fill vacant positions,” Peters said in a news release. “Technical education is an effective way to narrow the existing skills gap, and this bipartisan legislation would increase awareness of CTE as a pathway toward success and good-paying jobs for Michiganders.”

According to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, 36 percent of Michigan’s jobs are considered “middle-skilled” (more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree). A news release from Peter’s office said the average middle-skill salary is more than $44,000 and is projected to see job growth at 7 percent.

Peters’ office said most reports indicate a large number of K-12 counselors had not been trained to advise students on programs outside of a four-year college pathway and many are unaware of alternative options.

Peters' office said universities, colleges and other higher education programs that apply for Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education grant funding to train counselors, consult with state or local workforce development boards to assess the needs and trends. The boards have business, labor and apprenticeship program representatives.

After receiving grant-funded training on a variety of paths, counselors in training would then report best practices on how to educate students about the alternatives to the U.S. Secretary of Education. Peters’ office said those guidelines would later be widely shared for public and private schools to reference.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, and would authorize the U.S. Department of Education to use Perkins grant funds to “assess local and regional employment needs, develop career counseling training programs based on those trends” and “carry out programming at counselor training sites.”

The bill was referred to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. After committee approval, the bill would then go in front of the full Senate.

By:  Arielle Breen
Source: Gaylord Herald-Times