With the start of the new school year less than a month away, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback encouraged high school students to take advantage of free tuition offered through the state’s new Career and Technical Education Act during a news conference today at the Washburn Institute of Technology in Topeka. Brownback also unveiled the list of high-need occupations that are eligible for the incentive program passed by the Kansas Legislature earlier this year.
“When a high school student earns a technical certificate in a high-need occupation, everybody wins,” Brownback said. “That student will be equipped with the skills necessary to enter the workforce or help pay their way through college – without paying a penny in tuition. The positive impact is felt by the student, the high school, the technical or community college, the industry hiring the skilled student and the state’s economy.”
Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, Kansas high school students can get their tuition paid for if they take qualified technical courses offered at Kansas technical and community colleges. The incentive program also will give school districts $1,000 for each high school student who graduates from that district with an industry-recognized credential in a high-need occupation.
“This list of occupations that are eligible for the incentive program was produced from a collaborative effort between the Kansas Department of Labor, the State Department of Education and the Board of Regents,” Brownback said. “These high-need occupations will yield the greatest benefit to the state’s investment.”
The following occupations are eligible for the tuition assistance and incentive program (the complete list will be posted online by Kansas Board of Regents):
• Diesel engine specialists
• Automotive service technicians and mechanics
• Structural metal fabricators and fitters
• Assemblers and other fabricators
• Construction laborers
• Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics, and installers
• Cement masons and concrete finishers
• Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters
• Computer support specialists
• Sheet metal workers
Brownback was joined at the event by Clark Coco, dean of Washburn Tech; Dr. Brenda Dietrich, superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn School District; Carol Wheeler, vice president, professional and regional services officer at Stormont-Vail HealthCare and Olivia Schwyhart, a student at Washburn Tech, along with area high school counselors and state lawmakers.
Coco said he believed the new program would increase the partnerships between school districts and two-year colleges to meet the needs of Kansas employers and would also provide parents with information and incentives so their children could enter directly into the workforce after completion of their program of study.
“Technical education in the state of Kansas has seen several positive changes over the past 7 to 8 years but through the leadership of Governor Brownback along with his administrative team, the Kansas Legislature, the Kansas Department of Education, the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Post-Secondary Technical Education Authority, our state has made a tremendous commitment to the training of our next generational workforce,” Coco said. “Governor Brownback’s vision and support of technical education is leading the economic engine of our state.”
Dietrich emphasized the importance of new opportunities now available for students.
“There are 16 school districts that send high school students to WashTech,” Dietrich said. “The new Career and Tech Ed Act allows students so many more opportunities by providing easier access to programs at technical colleges and removing some of the previous potential funding barriers.”
Wheeler spoke about the importance a career and technical education has on industries.
“This legislation will help insure an adequate supply of technically competent individuals in the workforce to meet the needs of industry,” Wheeler said. “As our current workforce ages, we find we need a larger pool of applicants from which to draw to fill these jobs. As an example, although when thinking about the workforce needs of a hospital, one thinks of licensed professional jobs, we also employ mechanics, construction, electricians, carpenters and computer support specialists. This is a step in the right direction to meet these needs.”
The Career and Technical Education Act passed unanimously out of both chambers and was signed into law by Brownback in May. The new law took effect on July 1.