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(L-R Dane Wicker, Senator Kidani, Ken Kozuma, and Senator Dela Cruz)

On Friday, the Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Ways and Means visited two sites in Central Oʻahu to celebrate advancements in career and technical education. First, the Committee visited Leilehua High School where they listened to presentations by the Department of Education, Hawaiʻi P-20, Hawaiʻi State Teacher Association, the Hawaiʻi Teachers Standards Board, and Leilehua students on workforce development pathways from early childhood to post-secondary education. Afterward, the Committee attended the grand opening of the Wahiawā Value-Added Product Development Center, a joint project between Leeward Community College and the State. The Wahiawā Value-Added Product Development Center, a 33,000 square foot manufacturing facility for entrepreneurship and education, is one component of the Food and Product Innovation Network, a statewide network of facilities to support value-added businesses as they scale up and commercialize new products from research and development through to manufacturing and marketing.


"I applaud Committee Chairs Kidani and Dela Cruz for their leadership in championing policies that advance our education, food sustainability, and economic development goals," said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi (District 8 – Kauaʻi, Niʻihau). "The Food and Product Innovation Network will support local entrepreneurs to promote the unique values and assets of each region across the State."


The Committee was accompanied by executives from the Association for Career and Technical Education, the nation's largest non-profit association committed to empowering educators to deliver high-quality programs that position students for career success. Site visit guests from the Association for Career and Technical Education included LeAnn Curry, Executive Director, Fran Bromley-Norwood, Education Division Vice President, and Shani Watkins, Region V Vice President.


"Industry partnerships are essential for the success of career and technical education programs," said Executive Director Curry. "ACTE applauds the efforts to engage industry stakeholders and government officials with learners and educators to help our nation’s students develop essential skills and fulfill workforce needs, pursuing strong and exciting career pathways. "


The site visit comes at the conclusion of the 2024 Region V Association for Career and Technical Education Conference, which ran from April 9 – April 12 at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center. On April 11, Senate Vice President and Senate Committee on Education Chair Michelle N. Kidani (District 18 – Mililani Town, Waipiʻo Gentry, Crestview, Waikele, Portion of Waipahu, Village Park, Royal Kunia) and WAM Chair Donovan M. Dela Cruz (District 17 – Portion of Mililani, Mililani Mauka, portion of Waipi‘o Acres, Launani Valley, Wahiawā, Whitmore Village) were joined by Ken Kozuma, Future Farmers of America Advisor at Waipahu Intermediate School, and Dane K. Wicker, Deputy Director of the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism in a panel presentation to discuss Sister-School Relationships. The panel focused on the State's potential to leverage international relationships through career and technical education helps to break silos and bridge education industry for career readiness.


"A number of our public school graduates do not attend college, so opportunities for student workforce development is a critical piece for Hawaiʻi's future," said Senate Vice President Kidani. "It has been my pleasure working with my Senate Colleagues and the Department of Education to ensure that our keiki have the skills necessary for good paying jobs here at home."


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