Grant Program Aims to Prepare Students for Technical Jobs

$20 million in grant money is being spread across 10 states in an effort to prepare high school graduates for well-paying technical jobs.

It’s long been known that there is a large gap between well-paying, available technical jobs and high school graduates adequately trained for those jobs. Now an international bank and a coalition of state school officers think they have a solution.

JPMorgan Chase and the Council of State School Officers recently announced that they are issuing nearly $20 million dollars’ worth of grants across 10 states. The program is designed to “dramatically” increase the number of students graduating from high school who are ready to start careers.

The 10 states are Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Each state will receive $2 million.

“Two million dollars is a lot of money in Rhode Island,” says Governor Gina Raimondo. “We’re starting with the demand side … and then working back and saying, how do we develop programs to fill that demand.”

Each of the states is working with both the public and private sectors to make sure that education is adequate for preparing high school students for well-paying vocational or technical jobs after they graduate.

The program’s sponsors predict that there will be more than 16 million well-paying jobs by 2024, even for people without bachelor’s degrees. And they also note there are plenty of those jobs even now. Case in point: Northern Virginia, which has 30,000 unfilled IT jobs.

Although the national unemployment rate as of January 12, 2017, is 4.6 percent, the program’s sponsors note that unemployment for Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 is at 9.3 percent. Many people in that age group who are employed either work only part-time or at low-wage jobs.

“For a couple of generations, we sort of put vocational education as sort of a stigmatized track,” says Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. “Part of what we have to do is rectify, both in policy and the way we promote it to families and students.”

Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, says that many schools are graduating students who don’t have the skills necessary to make a decent living.

“We have lots of people needing jobs—we have lots of empty jobs,” says Bloomberg. “It’s really hard to argue that we shouldn’t do something dramatically different in our public schools.”

The new initiative will emphasize ensuring that people graduate from high school with a set of technical or vocational skills that will allow them to secure good jobs.

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