WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, today introduced the Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act that would expose middle school students to CTE programs focused on career exploration. The Middle STEP Act would establish a pilot program for middle schools to partner with postsecondary institutions and local businesses to develop and implement career and technical education exploration programs that give students access to apprenticeships or project-based learning opportunities traditionally not available to students until high school or postsecondary programs. Kaine will discuss the legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer, Bob Casey, and Mark Warner and has received endorsements from the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, and Citizen Schools, at a CTE Caucus event later this afternoon with Arlington Career Center teachers.
“The Middle STEP Act will expose students to a wide range of career choices through hands-on learning so they will be more informed about future paths and what they can do in high school to pursue them,” said Kaine. “Middle school is an important time for students to explore their own strengths, likes, and dislikes, and CTE exploration programs are great tools to educate them about the type of coursework or training that goes into a career field that matches their interests.”
“By connecting students with career exploration opportunities earlier in their educational careers, we can ensure that they start early on building a vision for their future, and can expand on those experiences by pursuing additional CTE education,” said LeAnn Wilson, Executive Director of ACTE. “When students have the chance to see how they might put their skills to work firsthand, they become excited about learning and about preparing themselves for college and career success – and that’s a win for students and teachers alike.”
In addition to providing students with access to apprenticeships or project-based learning opportunities, middle school CTE programs funded through the Middle STEP Act would give students access to career guidance and academic counseling to help them understand the educational requirements for high-growth, in-demand career fields. Programs would help students draft a high school graduation plan that demonstrates what courses would prepare them for a given career. The programs must also provide a clear transition path from the introductory middle school program to a more narrow focus of CTE study in high school and must be accessible to students from economically disadvantaged, low-performing, and urban and rural communities.
In July, Kaine introduced The Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act, which amends the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to better meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and ensure students have access to the highest-quality CTE programs. Last month, he visited Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, the site of the new Ridgeview High School in Clintwood, Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon, Louisa County High School in Mineral, and the Apprentice School in Newport News to discuss the importance of CTE programs for growing a talented workforce and providing a low-cost alternative to traditional four-year college.