Gov. Joe Manchin

Recently, I met with students, educators and employers during a series of events marking Vocational Education Week in West Virginia and discussed the important role career and technical education plays in preparing a skilled, knowledgeable work force for businesses in today's marketplace.

I have often spoken about the five promises that we should make to every child. At the core of those promises is the promise that every child should have a marketable skill. Career and technical education allows us to keep that promise and helps us ensure that our students graduate possessing the skills needed to join today's work force.

We all know that an educated work force is the key to economic development. I have talked to business leaders across our state and they are all confident that West Virginia will be experiencing net-gains of thousands of more new jobs this year in areas such as manufacturing, chemical operations, oil and gas extraction, nursing and more.

Nursing is one field in particular that needs workers, as the health care industry continues its rapid growth. Hundreds of nursing students came from all across the Mountain State and converged upon the Capitol recently for the 2006 Nurses Unity Day at the Legislature. I thanked these students for pursuing an occupation that is in high demand and encouraged them to finish their education and practice their trade here in our state.

The seamless system of education we are working to build in West Virginia will ensure that we have an educated, prepared, and competitive work force. For too long, our education system has operated as a series of silos - silos for early childhood, elementary schools, high schools, vocational/technical schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. I am committed to turning those silos on their sides and welding them together to make a seamless pipeline.

While we are doing a better job of aligning career and technical education efforts at the K-12 level with the community and technical colleges and with our office of work force development, there is still much work to be done. For instance, students should have clearly articulated career pathways so that they understand the connection between the courses they take, the credentials they receive, and the careers they pursue. As part of our focus on a seamless education system, we are committing to the enhancement of career and technical education opportunities through a recommended increase of more than $1 million in my budget for the vocational education office in the State Department of Education.

The tremendous advancements in the quality of career and technical education opportunities are producing positive results for our workers. I tell companies all the time – you provide the opportunities, we'll provide the trained work force, because West Virginians are the hardest workers in the nation. As businesses throughout the nation and world realize the advantages of doing business in West Virginia, our work force will be ready to respond to the challenges of today's changing marketplace because of our outstanding commitment to career and technical education.

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