Thursday, January 12, 2012

Career pathways legislation among higher education bills introduced as 2012 session gets under way

Bills introduced during the first week of the 2012 Legislative Session focus to a great extent on finding ways to increase the number of students participating and succeeding in areas of study that meet critical workforce needs — especially in the areas of computer and information science, engineering, and the health professions.
A new Career Pathways Act calls for a comprehensive statewide information effort by education institutions and state agencies to inform students, beginning in middle school, of the wide range of career preparation options available that lead to middle-income jobs.
These include skilled trades, pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, industry certifications, and workforce training programs as well as one-year certificates, associate, bachelor’s and advanced degrees.
A Washington Works bill is designed to create a reward system for improvements in completions at all levels of education with a particular focus on improvement in specific high demand occupations. 
Following is a summary of the key pieces of legislation introduced so far.
1.    SB 6029 amends Launch Year Act to require notification of three-year baccalaureate programs.

2.    HB 2209 amends RCW 28A.150.260, the K-12 Act covering contracted alternative learning experiences.  Running Start is excluded as a contracted alternative learning experience. State assessment testing is mandated for full- and part-time students. Contracted alternative learning experience programs are exempted from a proposed 15 percent budget cut for 2012-13.

3.    HB 2254 – Continues the Passport to College program beyond the six-year pilot phase. The bill allows foster youth who are younger than 18 to receive the Passport scholarship.  In addition, all foster youth would be automatically enrolled by DSHS as College Bound Scholarship participants. This means that Foster Youth in grades 9-12 would be allowed to participate in the College Bound program. OSPI is required to identify six to 10 school districts with the highest number of dependent students – districts in which certified staff navigators can be placed to focus on improving school graduation. 
4.    HB 2155/SB 5982 – Creates a Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation under the authority of the UW and WSU to offer all levels of programs to advance research on new technologies that might result in innovative products for the aerospace industry. The bill calls for the enhancement of the engineering departments at UW and WSU – and any other institutions that want to participate in industry-focused research. The center would seek additional private, federal and non-profit grant support and would sponsor at least one annual symposium on aerospace research in Washington. An advisory board composed of five institutional and industry representatives would be appointed by the governor.
5.    HB 2156/SB 5976 – Creates a Center for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing under the authority of the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) with responsibility for data collection and analysis. The Center would be required to conduct skill gap analysis with EDRC. An advisory committee composed mostly of industry representatives would be developed.  The Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (WTECB) would be required to evaluate programs annually, including employment outcome analysis. The WTECB also would evaluate, every four years, the Center’s net outcomes and cost benefit.
6.    HB 2170 – Creates a Career Pathways Act to build and reinforce awareness among middle and high school students and their parents about the availability of postsecondary pathways to non-baccalaureate career opportunities and about the remuneration and job opportunities available in those career pathways.
The act would require that materials and communications used by state education agencies include information about multiple career pathways and emphasize the value of each pathway, including employment prospects and earnings.  
The Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (WTECB) would be required to identify and publicize online tools that students and parents could use to explore multiple career pathways, as well as to create an annual list of promising careers.
The act also would establish Career Exploration Partnership Zones to increase connections and access to internship, employment, and training opportunities and facilitate information exchange among schools, businesses, labor communities, apprenticeship councils and higher education.

7.    HB 2265 – Creates Washington Works to provide a reward system for improvements in completions at all levels of education with a particular focus on improvement in specific high demand occupations.  
The bill lists occupations with critical skill shortages as aerospace, biology and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering and engineering technologies, health professions and clinical sciences, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences and science technologies. It stipulates this list should be revised annually to include areas of additional shortage.
Success would be measured by assigning points to each educational entity for increasing student success, numbers of graduates, and numbers of graduates from disadvantaged populations.   Institutions meeting or exceeding numeric goals would be eligible for rewards from a Washington Works fund established to promote improvement.

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