A plan to pump $6 million a year into expanding and improving career and technical education programs in Nevada high schools got a warm reception in the Senate Finance Committee on Monday.
Assemblyman Brooks Holcomb, R-Reno, sponsored AB406, which is also being considered by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
"We need skilled workers," he testified. "We need to diversify our economy. Seventy percent of the jobs out there do not require a college education and the No. 1 concern among the business community is the lack of skilled workers."
Holcomb said statistics show many young people who don't do well in college preparatory classes to much better in technical fields. He said their dropout rates decrease and grades improve when provided with better classes that develop marketable skills.
Holcomb's proposal drew strong support not only from school officials but the Department of Corrections, industry and members of Senate Finance.
John Madole, of the Associated General Contractors, said the message some high schoolers get is that, "If you're not going to college, you're a failure." He said AB406 would help change that attitude.
Norm Dianda, owner of Q&D Construction, told the committee he has been asking for better trade, career and technical education programs in high school for 40 years.
"We need people to learn hands-on trades," he said. "We need to help fulfill the needs of the construction industry and associated trades, culinary, design, graphic arts, secretarial and project management."
He said his own company employs about 900 and will need another 200 skilled workers by the peak construction season this summer. Asked what a skilled craftsman is worth to him, he told the committee: "About $50,000 to start - that's how important it is to have careers education."
He said he would commit to support scholarships to continue technical education for students, and "I can get another 20 to 30 in the same business I'm in to do the same."
"There is a glaring need for this kind of program," said Finance Chairman Bill Raggio, R-Reno.
"I completely agree this should be a core part of our school districts' mission," said Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas.
Corrections Department officials also joined the list of supporters. Fritz Schlottman told the committee a key issue for many inmates is the lack of a marketable job skill.
"It's very obvious that if you have skills, if you have education, you don't go to prison," he said. "If you don't have those things, your odds of going to prison are very much increased."
And Kevin Crow, of the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services, said marketable skills also help many of their clients stay out of hospitals and function within society.
Jim Barbee, of the Department of Education, said the additional money is needed because technical programs are expensive to operate with extensive equipment needs and hands-on teaching.
In addition to funding new and improved career and technical programs within Nevada high schools, the bill would create an advanced diploma recognizing that a student had taken and successfully completed a program in career and technical programs.
"With that advanced diploma," Holcomb said, "you can get a job."
The committee took the proposal under submission.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.