GROTON, Conn. (WTNH) — U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited southeastern Connecticut Friday, pushing President Joe Biden’s workforce agenda.

Congressman Joe Courtney (D) invited secretary Cardona to shine a light on Connecticut’s manufacturing programs. The curriculum starts with young kids then moves to high school, where students learn skills key to getting high-skilled, high-paying jobs.

“How do we give kids the skills they need for the 21st century, which again is different than it was 30 years ago,” Courtney said.

Cardona, who formerly served as the state’s Commissioner of Education, toured two schools to showcase how early kids are focusing on science, math, and technology, otherwise known as STEM. At Ella Grasso Tech, Cardona toured the manufacturing center.

“This is an example of what we want to see around the nation where we have beautiful facilities working not only with our K through 12 students, but with our adults after school these technical schools having a second shift,” Cardona, a graduate of tech school himself, said. “We need to provide our students in Connecticut and across the country options for success.”

Tyler White is a junior at Ella Grasso Tech.

“The past three years of my life have been absolutely phenomenal. I’ve learned so, so much,” White said.

Fifty percent of students who graduate from the program at that school have jobs lined up. Senior Alex Whittle said he is learning about plumbing and has already helped his family.

“The other day, the water heater went out. They’re like ‘it’s going to cost us a fortune,'” Whittle said. “I said ‘don’t worry, I’ll call up my boss and get a water heater.’ I had it done in three hours.”

Cardona is pushing Congress to expand funding for adults looking to upgrade skills for a second career. He said American Rescue Plan dollars are helping fund programs like this around the country and that Connecticut will be a model for the nation.

During his visit to the state, Cardona asked a class of first graders, “what else makes this class so special?” One young girl answered, “we’re good at math.”

At Thames River Magnet, a blue ribbon school, students of military families benefit from a $4 million Department of Defense grant for the district, helping the little learners get career-ready.

With demand for manufacturing jobs rising, Cardona said federal funds for workforce development will help keep American students competitive in this workspace. The state of Connecticut announced this week they’ll spend $70 million of that federal money on workforce programs like the one at Ella Grasso Technical School.

Cardona also responded to questions about COVID-19 in schools and the related staff shortages. He said he is proud of the administration and said 10 million tests per month will be sent out to schools nationwide and that “test to stay” in the classroom has been working.

Connecticut does “screen and stay,” which many districts have opted out of.