The Washington Business Alliance honored Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, on Thursday for his work on securing funding for career and technical education.

The award was presented to Braun on Thursday at his business, Braun Northwest, in Chehalis.

“In thanks to the exceptional leadership that you provided in the Senate and also negotiations across to the House, we award you with the CTE Legislator of the Year for your landmark work on behalf of our Washington students and businesses across the state,” Colleen McAleer, president of the Washington Business Alliance, said. 

Braun, who also serves as the chief budget writer in the Senate, worked to increase funding to better prepare students for the state’s increasingly competitive workforce, according to those in attendance. Along with passing a McCleary K12 funding solution, it resulted in a $200 million investment for career and technical education over the next four years. The changes also make CTE a categorical funding element that is part of basic education and increased the amount of grant money available through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for CTE related equipment.

“You get this chance every couple of decades to really make a big change in the way we fund things and the push for additional funding for career and technical education was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Braun said on Thursday, adding that protecting money for CTE programs in the past has been challenging. 

McAleer said that along with the alliance, trade associations, ethnic community groups and labor and education groups came together to name Braun the recipient of the award.

“It was a huge effort and the Legislature came through,” she said. 

Braun said he has personally seen the importance of CTE training, in part because the people he hires at his business, which manufactures custom-built emergency vehicles, need to be equipped with traditional vocational skills. 

He also said it is important to support a broad array of items that prepare students for life after high school, from a four-year college degree, to apprenticeships and certifications. 

Jene Jones, with Legislative Solutions, said Braun’s representation assured industry relevant coursework will be available to students statewide.

“The business community is grateful to Senator Braun for providing capacity for a talent pipeline to the technically skilled positions industry currently struggles to fill, vitally necessary to grow our Washington economy,” she said. “We congratulate and thank Senator Braun for the lasting impact of his work.”

Bob Walter, principal of W.F. West High School, said the changes meant a lot for the Chehalis School District, which has focused on producing career and college ready students. 

“Having the programs in place that are tied to industry is important so we have a very strong CTE program and offer an array of trades and link that to Centralia College as well,” he said. “This really gives those programs a step up with supplies and if we need a new piece of equipment, there should be new grants available. It’s just pretty exciting.” 

The district has been forward thinking in the programs it offers, focusing on jobs that will be popular in the next 7 to 10 years in the state, Walter said. 

“Every kid needs to have a step whether it's an apprenticeship, career, two year college, four year college or a technical school,” he said. “We are really trying to have a strong pathway for every student.” 

Kevin Smith, a teacher at W.F. West, said the classes provided through CTE programs provide students with applicable experience that can help them secure entry level jobs, or take them to the next level.

The award presentation ended with a tour of Braun Northwest. Local educators, administrators and students all took part.

CTE promotes and supports middle and high school programs that provide 21st century academic and technical skills for students, according to a press release. 

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