I applaud the efforts of Maine private businesses, such as Cianbro and E.J. Prescott for setting up training programs for idle Maine youth.

Another opportunity exists for students to gain valuable work skills, career and technical education. Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta offers 16 technical programs to high school students. Career and technical education, formerly known as vocational education, has evolved over my lifetime. Today’s cutting-edge, rigorous and relevant career and technical education programs prepare youth for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers.

Career and technical programs now are required to teach to state/national standards and each of the 16 programs at Capital Area Technical Center offers a state or national certification. Many career and technical education programs have dual enrollment opportunities for students. They earn college credit for their career and technical education coursework. Every year, many of the seats available for students at Capital Area Technical Center go unfilled, and this is also the trend around the state. A big barrier is that career and technical education classes are viewed by high schools as “elective credit.” As high schools continue to increase academic coursework graduation requirements, there are fewer chances for students to access career and technical education.

I hope that, with the new proficiency based diploma legislation (title 20-A, section 4722-A), students will have more opportunities to show they are meeting standards in content areas by completing a variety of experiences, such as at Cianbro and E.J. Prescott, as well as in career and technical education.

Career and technical education not only helps students, but it also helps our state economy by addressing the needs of high-growth industries and helping to close the skills gap.

Stephanie TurgeonStudent services coordinatorCapital Area Technical CenterAugusta