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Politically Active NCWE Members
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NCWE Members Bring Expertise to State Politics
By Beth M. Arman, Vice President for Governmental Relations

Two National Council for Workforce Education members, Dr. Erin Frasier and Dr. Sherry Shipley, are currently running for elected office in their respective states of Washington and Indiana. Erin, who is a policy associate with the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, is a candidate for State Representative in the 19th legislative district. Sherry, who is the dean of multiple schools within Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette, is a candidate for the Indiana State Senate District 22, serving Tippecanoe County. Both are Democrats.

In this interview, they describe why they decided to run and what actions they would take if elected.

What influenced your decision to become politically active and ultimately run for elected office?

Erin: I became politically active about 10 years ago, to focus on educating people about current issues so they could feel better equipped to make decisions and participate in our political system. I found I enjoy advocating for policy change, collaborating with local community stakeholders and ensuring all voices are included in the conversation. I have served on community boards and have committed to ensuring access to education and human services at Grays Harbor College, and now with the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. I decided to run for office because I believe I can utilize my history of community engagement, my experience growing up in this district, and my desire to create change to ensure the voices of my district are heard and much needed resources are available to help individuals, families and our communities prosper.

Sherry: After the [presidential] election, I felt as if my life’s work to educate, train, and prepare students for a professional career was meaningless, as we had just elected someone who demonstrated no professionalism and exhibited behaviors that are not allowed in the workplace or in educational settings. I also saw that our K-12 system was continuing to struggle, and the high stakes/high cost assessments were not truly assessing students’ skills or preparing them for the workforce. Leaders seem completely unable to help align K-12 and higher education to workforce needs. I also felt there was no real vision coming from state or national leaders on education, workforce, and technology issues.

If elected, what actions would you take to promote and strengthen workforce education?
Erin: I am committed to equitable access to quality education to prepare our children and upskill our workforce. This requires a commitment to the entire education and training pipeline. Four-year degree pathways should not be the only option perceived to be honorable for our children. Incentives should be in place to promote all career pathway options to high school students, including apprenticeship, industry-recognized credentials and on-the-job training, so that we do not exclude those that don’t fit the 4-year model. I would also work to increase access to credible early childhood education to ensure our youth receive the head start they need to be successful. In addition, we need to ensure investments in public-private partnerships for upgrading equipment and ensuring adequate training in alignment with business needs. There will be much need to support these transitions as our local economies work to compete in an ever-changing and advancing global economy.

Sherry: Indiana is the most manufacturing-dependent economy in the nation, with 29% of the state GDP. We spend about $1 billion on workforce every year via multiple agencies and 30 programs but rank 45th in the country in workforce preparedness. State leaders are trying to make these agencies/programs more efficient and effective. With my experience as a leader in workforce education, I have a clear understanding of how all stakeholders can better work to streamline processes, increase training, and meet workforce needs. Indiana also has new high school graduation requirements that will include workforce training and service learning. I have a great understanding of all of the partners in this pipeline and will be able to bring that knowledge and understanding to legislation and budget issues.

In addition to education, what are your other policy priorities?
Erin: We must do better to help workers, small business, and rural communities succeed in these changing times so that our local economies thrive. To create a solid foundation for the economy we must view education, healthcare, public safety and infrastructure as investments, not costs, and view people as our greatest assets. As we continue to meet our K-12 funding obligations in Washington, there will be budget shortfalls that could negatively impact many other programs important to people’s well-being and economic security. I will work to ensure funding for basic needs so that workers and their families are healthy and safe. I am also committed to revising Washington’s regressive tax system so that those with the lowest incomes are not paying the highest proportion of their income in taxes. This will leave more money in the pockets of hard working Washingtonians and decrease the gaps we need to fill for people to be secure.

Sherry: 1) Technology. Indiana hosts some of the top tech companies in the world. We have tremendous growth in tech start-ups and occupy a unique place in the tech economy. To increase our venture capital investments, Indiana must have communities of opportunity for all Hoosiers. We have to update our out-of-date, unreliable tech systems in our social services agencies. Indiana utilizes obsolete technology that is vulnerable to cyber-attacks, down time, or complete failure. I will also advocate to protect our power grid, voting system, and other critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks. 2) Wage and income inequality. While we have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, for many Hoosiers, wages have not kept pace. This is particularly true for women in Indiana. We repealed the Common Construction Wage three years ago and since that time, construction wages have fallen dramatically. The repeal also did not realize the goals of increased bids or cost savings for schools.

Do you have any advice for NCWE members who may be considering running for office?
Erin: Engage with your local communities early and continuously. Participate in events, serve on boards, volunteer, and meet as many people as possible. Take the time to be connected to the communities you serve and truly hear the voices of the people. It is also extremely important to understand your own core values: not merely what you think others would like to hear, but those underlying core values that make you who you are - - that drive your passions. Core values are a result of the experiences you have had and identifying what they are will help you to understand your response, especially emotional response, to issues.

Sherry: Just go for it! Many people have run for and been elected to office with a lot less skill and education than we have. Even if you don’t win, you are changing the narrative, driving the policy discussions, and standing as a role model for your students.

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