Dept. of Education: Career Training Could Start ‘As Early as Middle School’

By Penny Starr | October 15, 2012 | 12:38 PM EDT

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ( Starr)

( – On the sixth day of a cross country bus tour that took Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other agency officials to 12 states, vocational training was touted, including “introducing” the idea to children who are in middle school.

“To this notion of career academies, this notion of taking career ladders, how we move earlier and earlier to not just in high school, but we talk about, in some cases, how do we start introducing our young folks as early as middle school,” Tony Miller, Deputy Secretary at DOE, said on Sept. 19 when the bus visited Mt. Vernon, Ill.

At the “Education Drives America” tour stop in Mt. Vernon, Miller highlighted a community college that is partnering with a tire manufacturing plant to give students the skills they would need to be employed by the company.

“The floor of a tire factory isn’t your typical spot to celebrate educational success,” Cameron Brenchley, director of digital engagement with DOE, wrote in a blog posted Sept. 20 on the agency’s website.

“Yet, that is exactly where the Education Drives America dropped off Deputy Secretary Miller and staff to talk about the successful partnership between Continental Tire North America (CTNA) and Rend Lake College in Mt. Vernon, Ill.,” Brenchley added.

“Since 2005, CTNA has partnered with Rend Lake College to develop and staff a new training center at CTNA,” Brenchley wrote. “The facility boasts a 24-station computer lab with teacher station, a distance learning room, which seats 24 students, and Rend Lake provides a coordinator to work full-time in the training center, overseeing the college programs.”

This is the third year for the “back-to-school” bus tour, which this year began in California on Sept. 12 and ended on Sept. 21 at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C. The tour included 100 events in 12 states.

The DOE refused to respond to questions from seeking the cost of the tour and the source of funding for it.

Miller said this kind of partnership was one of the ways the Obama administration is “ensuring all of our folks are college and career ready.”