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U.S. Sen. Patty Murray continues push for state education

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray introduced a new federal bill, the Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Careers Act, that establishes a new $912 million grant program that gives high school students a broader range of secondary and post-secondary options.

“This is about closing the skills gap between what students have and what employers need,” Murray said in a statement on her Web site regarding the bill. “Right now we are at a crossroads. Drop-out rates are up, unemployment is up and the high-wage, high-skilled jobs of the future are going unfilled.

“Now is the time to work together to find new solutions that will not only benefit both our kids and our schools but also our economy in the long-run,” she said. “That’s why I have introduced legislation that will bring together employers, schools, workforce and economic development experts, labor and more to develop ways to help students get the skills and credentials they need for family-wage careers in their regions. In an increasingly global and dynamic economy, a skilled, prepared workforce is more important than ever.”

The bill has garnered support from many in the state’s educational system, including State Superintendent Randy Dorn.

“I appreciate the scope of the bill,” he said. “Its value to business and labor comes from getting students engaged early in a trade or industry. And its value to the community comes from students entering the workforce with not only a valuable set of skills, but working in a career they enjoy.”

The bill would provide strategies to give high school students more help as they prepare for the transition out of high school with hands-on job training experience; teacher training on how to incorporate real-world experiences into the classroom; enhanced guidance and career-education programs; and collaboration with regional employers, post-secondary institutions, and workforce and economic development representatives.

The bill also would create “career pathways” that would provide students with hands-on experience and contextual learning in a field they are interested in. Not only that, it also recognizes that high school students often have varying interests and provides for learning accomplished in one field to be applied to other fields.

“The bill adds tremendous value to students by giving them another avenue to find their careers,” Dorn said.

The bill, originally introduced in 2008, also recognizes the importance of post-secondary education in today’s society.

“According to the Educational Commission of the States, some 60 percent of today’s jobs require some training or education beyond high school, compared to just 20 percent in the 1940s,” the bill states.

The bill’s next stop is the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“Education is the key to a bright future and I’m hopeful that the ideas I’ve presented in my bill will fuel a national discussion about ways we can improve education and keep our economy strong,” Murray said.

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