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Romine, Hegeman promote technical education bills in committee

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Two bills designed to encourage vocational programs and technical skills certification received widespread support for education and industry advocates during a Senate Education Committee hearing.

Sen. Gary Romine’s SB 44 would create the Career and Technical Education Certification (CTEC) Program to provide students with technical skills in preparation for an entry-level career in a technical field. The State Board of Education would allow students to receive credit towards graduation for a CTEC offering, including industry certification, a state-issued professional license, an occupational competency assessment, or a CTEC exam.

Romine, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the bill would allow businesses and industries (including local businesses) to communicate directly with schools about the type of specific technical labor they need from people they are looking to hire.

He used the example of BNSF Railroad or Union Pacific Railroad requiring a specific type of welding certification telling schools of the specific kind of welding they need. Schools can then adapt their curriculum to meet those needs.

“We’re trying to do is not get too specific… but we want to make sure school districts know if Union Pacific says these are the type of welding techniques they need, then it allows schools to offer the courses so kids can find jobs in the area they’re trained for,” Romine said.

In that respect, the bill is as much an education bill as it is a workforce development bill. Sarah Topp of the Missouri Association for Career and Technical Education said the bill would provide a much-needed connection between those organizations.

“It is important that business and industry and their needs are connected as closely as possible to what we’re teaching,” she said.

Organizations from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Microsoft Corporation to the Missouri National Education Association and the Missouri Community College Association supported the passage of the bill.

Only Sen. Ed Emery had concerns with the legislation, wondering specifically how these kinds of programs tackling real work needs had not already existed.

Sen. Dan Hegeman’s SB 63 covered the same territory and Romine hinted the two bills could be folded in together. Hegeman addressed some of Emery’s concerns about the two bills, noting that in some technical fields, especially computer technology, it can move too fast for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Technology gets ahead of DESE,” Hegeman said plainly.

An executive session on the two bills is expected sometime in February.