FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2020
Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education
406-449-9173 (o); 406-788-4375 (c)
Office of Public Instruction
Montana plan to expand Career and Technical Education receives federal approval
Montana will receive $6 million for high school and college workforce training programs
Montana’s state plan to enhance and expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs for high school and college students has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
While CTE can include a broad range of educational credentials, including bachelor’s and graduate degrees, it is most often associated with associate degrees or certificates that can be earned through one- and two-year programs, preparing students for good-paying jobs with low educational costs.
Montana’s Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education will receive more than $6 million in the 2020-2021 funding cycle through the federal Perkins V Act to support CTE programs at the high school and college level such as welding, manufacturing, business, agriculture, health care and hospitality.
The Perkins Act provides the bulk of funding for CTE programs in Montana’s high schools, two-year colleges, community colleges and tribal colleges, serving more than 5,000 high school and 10,000 postsecondary students with Career and Technical Education programs.
“While Montana is already a national leader in initiatives to improve and expand CTE opportunities in our high schools and colleges, this continued funding is more critical than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on our state and national economies,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian. “Montanans need access to education and training that will make them competitive in a changing job market, whether they’re a high school student getting a head-start on college or an adult returning to school to retool and retrain.”
The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) designates the biggest portion of the Perkins funds to the Office of Public Instruction to support programs that allow high school students to explore and engage in college and career options.
The funding helps cover the costs of instructors, curriculum and technology for programs that reflect current workforce needs.
“Montana’s state Perkins plan is the result of strong collaboration between K-12 education, post-secondary education, and our private sector partners to prepare students for successful careers in Montana industries,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. “The OPI’s Career and Technical Education Division will expand CTE resources for students and educators while strengthening relationships with Montana’s businesses and industries. Together, we will prepare our students to be Montana Ready!”
The remainder of the Perkins funds are allocated directly to Montana’s two-year, community and tribal colleges to support programs that serve as a bridge between education and business and industry.
“Montana’s university system, and in particular our two-year colleges, will serve as a critical economic driver in the restoration of our post-COVID economy,” said Christian. “Our campuses are working with business and industry leaders to innovate and to train our workforce for tomorrow’s economy.”
Highlights of Montana’s new Perkins plan include a requirement for all high schools receiving Perkins funding to offer Dual Enrollment courses tied to CTE programs. The requirement dovetails with the Montana University System’s One-Two-Free Program, which gives Montana high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to take and earn college credit – tuition free – for two college-level courses. Students take the 100- and 200-level classes at their high schools, on college campuses or online. Students who demonstrate financial need can apply for a scholarship to cover the tuition for additional Dual Enrollment courses. The program enables students planning to pursue one- or two-year degrees to be well into their college coursework by the time they graduate from high school.
Currently, 77 percent of Montana’s public high schools offer Dual Enrollment and the new requirement tied to Perkins funding is expected to boost the number of schools offering Dual Enrollment opportunities.
Other highlights of Montana’s Perkins plan include:
- Strong collaboration between OCHE and OPI to develop and implement strategies to increase rural access to quality CTE.
- Alignment of CTE programs at the secondary and postsecondary levels so students will experience a seamless transition from high school CTE programs to a corresponding college-level CTE program.
- Strong alignment between CTE educational programs and business and industry.
- Robust use of labor market information to align program planning with workforce needs, as well as strong coordination and collaboration across state and federal workforce development agencies and plans, including the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Established in 1984, the Perkins act was most recently reauthorized in 2018, when it was renamed the “Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). Montana is among 9 states whose Perkins plans were approved and announced May 29 [ed.gov] by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The other approved plans were for Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.