Policymaker Perspectives: Rep. Jim Langevin | How federal policymakers are working to strengthen the CTE ecosystem.
ACTE spoke with Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) as part of our Policymaker Perspectives discussion series to explore how federal policymakers are working to strengthen the CTE ecosystem.
Policymaker Perspectives: A Discussion with Representative Jim Langevin
Editor’s Note: Policymaker Perspectives is a new discussion series between ACTE and federal policymakers. It is intended to allow CTE professionals to hear directly from policymakers about their priorities and the work taking place in Washington to strengthen the CTE ecosystem.
Jim Langevin represents Rhode Island’s Second Congressional District and was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000. Previously, Rep. Langevin served as Rhode Island’s secretary of state and as a member of the state house. He currently serves on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees.
As a member of the Democratic leadership’s senior whip team, Rep. Langevin works with his fellow Democrats to educate them on policy issues and craft his party’s legislative agenda. In addition to his leadership within the Democratic caucus, Rep. Langevin co-chairs the Congressional CTE Caucus, Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, among others.
Representative Langevin is also the first quadriplegic to ever serve in Congress. At the age of 16 he was injured while working with the local police department through the Boy Scout program when a gun accidentally discharged. Following the accident, he graduated from Rhode Island College and received his master’s degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
ACTE spoke with Representative Langevin as part of our Policymaker Perspectives discussion series.
ACTE: As the co-chair of the Congressional CTE Caucus, you are one of CTE’s strongest advocates on Capitol Hill. What led to your interest and involvement in CTE?
Representative Langevin: My interest in career and technical education stems from visits I have made to businesses across Rhode Island. Business leaders repeatedly told me they were unable to find workers with the skills to match their job openings. This skills gap was particularly striking around the time of the Great Recession, when unemployment was at an all-time high but positions continued to go unfilled. Through these interactions, in addition to discussions with educators and other experts in CTE, I became convinced that by expanding CTE at every level, from elementary school to college and beyond, we could turn out highly-skilled and motivated workers. Now, as a co-chair of the CTE Caucus, I am working with my colleagues to achieve these goals by increasing funding for and modernizing CTE programs.
ACTE: In Rhode Island there are nearly 15,000 CTE high school students and 95 percent of CTE concentrators graduated high school in the 2014-15 school year. How important is CTE to both Rhode Island’s education system and the state’s workforce?
Representative Langevin: The skills gap has been a significant drag on Rhode Island’s economy, and the demand for middle-skill jobs in the state continues to exceed the workforce supply. Rhode Island has developed some wonderful examples of partnerships that align workforce training with the needs of employers, including apprenticeship programs, and these programs need to be nurtured and expanded. I’m encouraged by the growing number of credentialed CTE programs and students in the Ocean State, which have strengthened the workforce and stimulated the economy. Through continued investment in CTE programs, I am confident that we can keep shrinking the skills gap.
ACTE: In 2015 you introduced H.R. 1079, the bipartisan Counseling for Career Choice Act. The bill would aid development of comprehensive career counseling programs in an effort to provide high school students with complete information about their postsecondary education and career options. Why do you believe career development professionals are such an integral part of career and technical education?
Representative Langevin: Professional school counselors have a profound impact on students’ postsecondary decisions, and we must ensure they are equipped to inform students of all possible educational and career pathways. For some students, the right path could be a traditional four-year university degree. Other students might benefit the most from a two-year course of study at a community college. Still others will find that a professional certification is the best way to achieve professional success and personal fulfillment. Counselors help provide students with the guidance they need to find the best fit for their skills and interests, and I was pleased that Congressman Glenn ‘G.T.’ Thompson and I were able to include an amendment to the Every Student Succeeds Act encouraging states to provide career counseling services to students. Now we must ensure counselors receive the resources they need to help their students.
ACTE: According to a report published earlier this year, by 2022 there will be a shortage of 1.8 million information security workers. As the co-chair of the Congressional Cybsersecurity Caucus, how are workforce shortages impacting the cybersphere? What role do you see for CTE in addressing these workforce shortages?
Representative Langevin: The need for a trained cyber workforce continues to grow. New threats are appearing in cyberspace every day, and without the proper tools in place and a workforce trained to use them, we will remain vulnerable to cyber attacks. CTE programs can help us develop a well-trained workforce to shore up our cyber defenses, but academia, government, and industry must work together to meet this challenge. To inspire these practices, I have encouraged participation in programs like Cyber Patriot, a competition that engages high school students and helps them develop their computer security skills. By building cyber skills early, we can grow a workforce capable of meeting the demands of the Information Age.
ACTE: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is due for reauthorization. Like any other student, students with disabilities can benefit from CTE programs. ACTE has heard from its members that they would like to be more included in the IEP process during the planning stages and that CTE teachers and administrators should be more significantly involved in transition services and planning. As the co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and the House CTE Caucus, what role does CTE play for students with disabilities? Does the caucus have any CTE-related priorities in IDEA reauthorization or in any other disabilities-focused legislation?
Representative Langevin: Access to CTE for students with disabilities is not only a crucial part of a successful transition into the workforce, it is an educational right. I was pleased that the Perkins reauthorization bill that passed the House last Congress contained provisions to expand access to CTE for students with disabilities, and I am continuing to work with my colleagues in the 115th Congress to further this goal. The IDEA reauthorization presents another opportunity to ensure equal access to CTE, and as a co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, I am always exploring new policy avenues to help individuals with disabilities succeed in school and in the workforce.