Sponsoring Rep. Rick Larson (D-WA) explained in a press release
that the bill would help connect high schoolers with jobs:
"America needs to be telling its young people we will invest in them. This bill does just that building a clear bridge between high school students and good paying jobs. Connecting today’s students with tomorrow’s skills is a critical investment in a strong economic foundation."
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) furthered in the same press release
that the bill would ensure workers have the skills to enter STEM fields.
"A fundamental element of any economic recovery involves education. Good paying jobs increasingly require some aspect of STEM education – both in new, emerging industries, as well as those in existing industries as they evolve. The Youth Access to American Jobs Act would help create a clearer path from the classroom to the workplace for today’s youth."
However, some have argued that vocational training programs that set students on a career path before they enter college can be detrimental. As education equity expert Carol Burris explains in a US News article:
"The big fear I have is that we are going to go back to where we were at the beginning of the last century, where we start sorting and selecting students, and putting them on life paths that may foreclose their options. Why are we saying that we have the right to start to put our kids on career paths when they haven't experienced that much of the world?"
Of Note: The U.S. currently has a deficit of skilled workers in certain sectors. A 2012 Wall Street Journal article explains:
"In an October 2011 survey of American manufacturers conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP, respondents reported that 5% of their jobs remained unfilled simply because they could not find workers with the right skills. That 5% vacancy rate meant that an astounding 600,000 jobs were left unfilled during a period when national unemployment was above 9%. According to 74% of these manufacturers, work-force shortages or skills deficiencies in production positions such as machinists, craft workers and technicians were keeping them from expanding operations or improving productivity."
(Photo Credit: Flickr user USDAgov)