Simon Bill Would Support Programs Designed To Ease School-to-Work Transition

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WASHINGTON--The Senate began debate last week on the school-to-work transition issue with a hearing on a proposal by Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., for grants to school districts in support of programs that include a rigorous blend of academic and work-related experience for high school students.

Mr. Simon's bill, the "career pathways act of 1993,'' is likely to be one of many introduced this year to address issues related to students' transition to the workforce. The need for improved training is a central theme of President Clinton's domestic policy, and the Administration is working on its own legislation.

The bill, S 456, "is only one piece of the puzzle in our effort to provide a quality system for assuring a successful transition from school to employment,'' Mr. Simon said at the hearing of the Subcommittee on Employment and Productivity, which he chairs.

A Labor and Human Resources Committee aide said the "career pathways'' concept is an important element of any program designed to make explicit for students the value of academic training in later success in the job market.

The Administration is drafting an education-reform measure that will set a federal role in developing academic "content standards'' for the curriculum, but Administration officials believe that separate "workforce standards'' are also needed.

'A Seamless Web'

The Administration plans eventually to introduce "a seamless web'' of education-reform and workforce-transition measures that may well include some of the provisions of the Simon bill, the committee aide added.

S 456 would amend the Job Training Partnership Act to allow the Education and Labor departments to award grants to districts, in partnership with employers, labor unions, and other organizations. It would authorize $250 million in fiscal 1994 and $500 million the following year.

It is unclear how the Clinton plan would be administered, and Administration officials have implied that it may be independent of the J.T.P.A. At a recent briefing for reporters, Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich said the Administration would propose freezing appropriations for the J.T.P.A.'s youth and adult programs.

Mr. Simon said his bill, a revised version of one he proposed last year, draws on testimony in past hearings.

The bill does not follow the pattern of traditional apprenticeship programs, because it does "not track participants into a narrow career choice and [the programs] do not come with a guarantee of a job,'' he said.

In addition, the bill aims to build on the experiences of successful state and local programs; to encourage flexibility of approach; and to involve employers as well as trade unions.

Mr. Simon said a successful program "must not label or target any particular group of students.''

Vol. 12, Issue 24

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