Starting this week, high school students in Kansas gained a big new career and education benefit, thanks to a new law that provides high school students free tuition for any technical education courses they choose to take at nearby technical or community colleges.
The law also provides a $1,000 per student incentive to school districts for graduates who complete an industry-recognized credential in a high-need occupation prior to graduating from high school. The Kansas Secretary of Labor will define which occupations are termed "high need".
"The value of obtaining an industry-recognized credential by the time a student graduates from high school is immense," Gov. Sam Brownback said following a ceremonial signing of the bill on June 28 at the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita. "That graduate will have a marketable skill to enter the workforce and, if they choose, have the ability to work during college to limit their debt – all without paying a penny in tuition. The community and technical colleges benefit from more students, the school district benefits from the $1,000 incentive and the economy benefits from having another skilled worker join the workforce. Everybody wins."
Dr. Tony Kinkel, President of Wichita Area Technical College, said he believes the bill will increase the partnerships between school districts and two-year colleges to meet the needs of Kansas employers and also provide parents with information and incentives to steer their children toward higher education opportunities where there are actual jobs.
"Economists estimate that nearly one-third of the unemployment rate can be attributed to a mismatch between the skills people have and the skills needed for available jobs," Kinkel said. "The Governor's initiative will position Kansas to tackle that challenge head-on."
John Dieker, Vice President of Strategic Projects at Bombardier Learjet and board member of the Sedgwick County Technical Education and Training Authority, praised the new law as a strategic way to improve an already great workforce in the City of Wichita and State of Kansas.
"Wichita is one of only five aviation clusters in the world," Dieker said. "We have been able to maintain and grow this cluster primarily due to the skilled labor we have in this region. With the passage and signing of this bill, we are confident that it will provide all of us with the next generation of highly skilled and technically trained individuals to support a maturing workforce. This truly shows the commitment of all our public, private and education partners to preserve Wichita as the 'Air Capital of the World.'"
John Allison, superintendent of the Wichita Public School District, emphasized the importance of new opportunities now available for students.
"With 75 percent of our current high school students taking one or more career and technical education course, we know that young people are interested," said Allison. "Tuition-free enrollment in technical college courses and financial incentives for school districts will allow us to create new partnerships and expand existing ones that prepare students for bright futures;" Allison said.