The COVID-19 pandemic has attacked the physical and financial health of communities across the country.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 6 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus, but each and every one of us have felt the ripple effect as our economy came to a screeching halt. The economic impact has manifested itself through scenes of boarded up storefronts, millions of Americans out of work, and many families concerned about their wellbeing.
In part, we’ve learned the hard way just how much we rely upon a highly skilled and trained workforce. The pandemic has thrust hardworking men and women who are often overlooked into the limelight, as we rely upon these professionals now more than ever.
Many of these individuals obtained their skills from career and technical education, or CTE. Just prior to the pandemic, there were nearly 7 million job openings across the country. Contrasting that figure with the potential of our nation’s learners—whether they are entering the workforce for the first time, learning a new skill, or reentering the workforce after some time away—and there is an obvious disconnect. This is often referred to as the “skills gap,” and CTE is a proven way to bridge this divide.
As co-chair of the bipartisan House Career and Technical Education Caucus, I’ve been proud to join my friend and co-chair Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) to advocate for a skills-based education since my earliest days in Congress. Through the bipartisan nature of the caucus and years of advocacy, in 2018 we were able to usher in new investments and put a fresh face on the federal legislation that governs CTE for the 21st Century.
Today, perhaps the most timely piece of CTE legislation is the Skills Renewal Act, a bill that would create a flexible, fully refundable skills training credit of $4,000 to support career and technical education opportunities such as apprenticeships and certificate programs. This would go a long way to benefit those who have found themselves recently unemployed during the pandemic, through no fault of their own.
While the pandemic is at the forefront of all our minds, there is a bright future ahead of us all. We will rise from this crisis thanks to the resiliency, grit, and determination of the American people.
The above is an excerpt of an op-ed that Congressman Thompson wrote for The Hill. To read the rest of the Congressman’s article, visit thompson.house.gov/CTEOpEd.
This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s October 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.