Initiative Supports Career Technical Education in Oregon High Schools
Today the Associated General Contractors Oregon-Columbia Chapter (AGC) Board of Directors voted to support Initiative Petition (IP) 65 (ip65.org), a ballot initiative that requires state funding for career technical education, college readiness, and dropout prevention programs in Oregon High Schools. AGC joins an increasing number of supporters who see IP65 as a way to prepare students to successfully join the workforce or seek a higher education. The decision was not a difficult one for the association, which has a long history of supporting trades programs in schools.
The Oregon Employment Department estimates that by the year 2022, construction will need well over 30,000 new workers to fill available positions in the industry. A recent survey found that nearly 90 percent of construction firms across the country are currently having difficulty finding enough skilled workers to fill key professional and craft positions. We as contractors know that a skilled workforce is essential to a productive and sustainable construction industry, and worker shortages have been caused by a variety of factors, including the dismantling of vocation and technical education programs in our schools. Without essential CTE programs available in schools throughout the state, the workforce shortage will only worsen across the industry.
A focus on college pathways in our schools has too often overlooked the pathways to rewarding careers in our communities that do not require a college degree, and students are suffering from the lack of elective courses such as the construction trades. Career and technical education programs keep kids interested and engaged, and the Oregon Department of Education has reported that students who take one or more CTE courses have a 15.5 point higher graduation rate than those who do not. “We know for a fact that CTE keeps kids in school. The courses do a better job of preparing students because they teach the value of learning a trade and can inspire kids to pursue a hands-on career tailored to their learning style,” said Steve Malany, president of P&C Construction Company and past AGC president. Even without a degree, construction often pays more than many post-college options. In fact, Oregon construction workers make more than the average wage both in Oregon and across the country.
There are some successful programs across the state, such as Forest Grove High School’s Viking House, Sherwood High School’s Bowmen House, and the Columbia Basin Student Homebuilder Program, that have achieved notable success, but not nearly enough to serve the needs of all high school students across the state. IP65 will help build CTE programs in districts that do not currently have classes available, and will also increase and improve programs that are already up and running.
“AGC is committed to educating young people on the value of learning a trade and inspiring them to pursue a career in the construction industry,” said Mike Salsgiver, the executive director of the Oregon-Columbia Chapter. “IP65 is based on the idea that the skills and abilities students need to succeed in both college and in careers are effectively identical. The successful development of our future workforce depends on it.”