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Business Coalition Applauds New Voc.-Ed. Law

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A national coalition of business groups representing more than 250,000 employers applauded a new federal vocational-education law last week, saying that it would improve the ability of school-based job-training programs to meet the needs of local labor markets.

The Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act—named for the late chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and signed by President Reagan on Oct. 19—will give employers the opportunity "to assist educators in their task of modernizing curricula for rapidly changing technologies and to help design programs that equip students for actual job needs," William H. Kohlberg, president of the National Alliance of Business, said at a press conference here. "We in the business community are very pleased with the outcome."

Business Participation

Mr. Kohlberg and other representatives of the Business Working Group on Human Resources, the coalition that sponsored the press conference, said they were particularly pleased by three provisions relating to business participation that were added to the $900-million reauthorization bill.

The first provision requires that a majority of the members of state councils on vocational education created under the act be drawn from the ranks of business. The business leaders on the councils, which help state education officials develop plans for spending the federal dollars, "will provide guidance to educators on the states' labor-market needs and the capacity of schools to meet those needs," the coalition said in a prepared statement.

A second provision of the act requires state boards of education and encourages the National Council on Vocational Education to establish ''technical committees" composed of business and labor leaders. The state committees, the coalition said, are to develop information on specific skills and competencies needed for workers to enter and progress in several occupational areas in each state. The national committees are to define similar skills and competencies for workers in a variety of industries.

The third provision of the new law cited by the business coalition authorizes joint industry-education programs for training in high-technology occupations. According to the coalition, companies that partici6pate in the programs will be required to provide 25 percent of their cost, in either cash or in-kind contributions.

Coordination With JTPA

The business group also said it was pleased with a fourth provision of the law requiring states to coordinate their school-based vocational-education programs with training programs created under the federal Job Training Partnership Act, which replaced the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) two years ago.

Among other things, this provision requires state officials to synchronize vocational-education and HTPA planning cycles; to ensure cross-membership on JTPA and vocational-education state councils; and to ensure that state vocational-education plans are submitted to the JTPA councils for review and comment.

'Control Where It Belongs'

"As a representative of industry, I was delighted that this bill finally passed," said W.E. Hardman, president of the National Tooling and Machining Association. "This law puts control over vocational education where it belongs—in the hands of people with jobs."

"There is a preponderance of evidence that most American workers are functioning far below their capacity," Mr. Hardman continued. "One of the primary reasons is inadequate training and education. It is also equally evident that human-resource management will be one of the critical keys to increasing American productivity. Human-resource management, simply translated, means better training and education."

According to Nathaniel M. Semple, a vice president of the Council for Economic Development (a business-related research and educational organization), "several major business organizations worked for the passage of this measure, and that's something that probably couldn't have happened six or seven years ago."

"I think that fact reflects the growing understanding that business needs to be involved in education," Mr. Semple continued. "It shows business's desire to put its best thinking into education. I applaud the Congress's willingness to bring business into the process."

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