A federal education official visited Heartland Community College on Friday to see how the school is training students to help fill a national job skills gap.
Assistant Education Secretary Scott Stump said U.S. employers are short 7.3 million skilled workers.
“They can’t find the ones with the skills they need to be able to advance their businesses,” Stump said. “With so many that are seeking, we as education institutions need to rethink how we are preparing those individuals.”
Stump met with educators and students in health sciences, early childhood education and workforce development.
Stump said U.S. colleges and universities have shifted too far from technical skills over the last 40 years, leading to a gap in skilled workers.
“It’s time that we bring them back into balance where students are getting a strong grounding in math, science and language arts but at the same time are acquiring the skills necessary to set them up in their careers,” Stump said.
The administration's budget wants to boost funding for career and technical training $630 million even while cutting education funding overall close to 8%.
“We also want to be fiscal conservatives and so the current budget proposed by the department is at or below the rate we were at last year in proposing,” Stump said. “(We are) holding it fiscally sound, but at the same time shifting some of those items to where career and technical education can grow.”
Stump said under the administration’s proposal Heartland and the state of Illinois would likely see an increase in funding for skills training.
The administration’s $5.6 billion request for education would slash funding for student aid and various types of academic research.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, who was on the Heartland campus for Stump’s visit, said he wanted to highlight Heartland’s workforce development efforts to help securing additional funding.
“It’s making sure we invest in the next generation that the president talked about, the blue colar resurgence that we have here in America, historic economic growth, historic low unemployment,” Davis said.
But Davis bristled when asked if he supported the Trump administration’s overall education spending plan.
“It’s our job to appropriate the dollars and we will do that,” Davis replied. “I’ve never understood how the news media wants to focus on the Republican budgets proposed by a president that have the same zero chance of being enacted as President Obama did."
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in Central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.