By Abigail Alcala
The Perkins Act, or its most recent iteration, which went into effect in 2019, called Strengthening Career and Technical Education in the 21st Century, is facing the end of its run in the coming year of 2024 and will soon be a discussion point in Congress once again. This means Congress will need to determine whether to reauthorize it and how much money should be granted to states.
The act’s primary purpose is to offer credentialed programs which prepare students to match the skills that are the most sought-after in the job market, such as vocational or technical programs that involve teaching technology skills to the masses. These courses are referred to as CTE programs or Career and Technical Education. Some states have made degree options that prepare students for careers related to technology and the digital world. These include courses on subjects such as information technology, engineering, and telecommunications. It is no secret that the world depends on the use of emerging technology and the internet, so the programs offered by states seek to match this demand to their student body.
Another critical aspect of this law is intended to diversify the reach of CTE programs. For example, about half of the students in secondary and post-secondary CTE programs in the state of New Jersey come from minority backgrounds. This can help bridge the digital divide that many people, especially those from minority backgrounds, face. Offering more straightforward access to degrees and making schooling more accessible is an exemplary way to continue to promote digital equity. Even if the degrees are not centered on technology, attending school in the 21st century still promotes computer literacy and other technical skills that are not easily accessible elsewhere.
This law is essential to continue supporting as it promotes digital equity by making education more accessible for students of different backgrounds. As the act approaches its final year before reauthorization, it is crucial to look at the data being collected and the impact it has had all over the country as well as in New Jersey. Almost 33,000 associate degrees and certificates are awarded annually in the state as a part of CTE programs. With the impact COVID has had on the job market, it is crucial to offer degrees that make technology skills more accessible so that all can participate in the digital age.
Abigail Alcala is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University.
 Edgerton, A. K. (2022, April 15). Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V): A Primer. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 2023, from https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R47071.pdf