Connect

Thompson, Kelly hail passage of technical education bill

August 27, 2018
In The News

The bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump, enjoyed an unusual level of bipartisan support.

Sixteen-year-old Samantha Saulsgiver is more than just a junior at General McLane High School and at Erie County Technical School.

She’s also a full-time lathe operator at H&H Aero Inc., an Erie company that makes precision parts for jet engines.

Although she is returning to a part-time schedule at Aero as classes resume, she said a job will be waiting for her when she graduates.

U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-5th Dist., said he had opportunities like that one and the promise of family-sustaining jobs in mind when he drafted H.R. 2353, to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act through 2024.

The bill, which was signed into law by president Donald J. Trump on July 31, enjoyed an unusual level of bipartisan support.

Counting committee votes in both the House and Senate, “This bill was voted on five times and there was not one vote against it,” Thompson said. “This was unanimous from start to finish. This shows you people understand the value of work.”

Thompson, joined by Rep. Mike Kelly, of Butler, R-3rd, was at the Erie County Technical School Monday morning to take a victory lap on behalf of the legislation, which expands federal support for vocational education by about $75 million a year, bringing the total to $1.2 billion.

H. Fred Walker, newly installed director of the Erie County Technical School, said it’s not clear yet how much more money the local school might receive or even how it would be best put to use. He pledged to put any extra money to the best possible use “to keep up with the jobs of the future.”

Thompson, who is co-chairman of the House Career and Technical Education Caucus, said that beyond reauthorizing the technical education act, it was his intention to create a bill that stripped away bureaucracy and allowed schools to respond quickly to changing needs.

Thompson said the bill also pushes information about technical school education to younger students at the middle school level.

Saying he wants to strip away the notion that college is the only successful path to success, Thompson said, “We’re here to restore rungs on the ladder of opportunity.”

Both Thompson and Kelly pointed to other members of their audience Monday as examples of what can be done with a technical school education.

Both Ethan Fails, 17, a senior at General McLane, and John Lorie, 17, a senior at Seneca High School, have been working for months at Bianchi Honda as they train to be auto service technicians.

Kelly addressed all three students in his remarks.

“You are going to walk out of the classroom and onto the playing field,” he said.

Kelly said the bill, which he co-sponsored, is aimed at helping to provide more trained applicants for an estimated 6.9 million jobs that remain unfilled in the United States.

“This is about getting people ready for the jobs that exist today,” he said.