State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, a Lehigh County Republican who represents part of Berks County, said in a news release last week that he reintroduced legislation he wrote several years ago to help increase awareness among middle and high school students about potential career opportunities in high-demand fields.

Mackenzie said his proposal, House Bill 425, complements Gov. Tom Wolf’s workforce development agenda.

Wolf signed an executive order last week creating a “command center” to coordinate economic and workforce development.

The Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, created with Wolf’s signature, aims to expand collaboration between state government agenies and the private sector to better address the gap between workers’ skills and employers’ needs.

Mackenzie said his bill would permit trade groups, businesses and institutions of higher learning to partner with middle and high schools to introduce students to career opportunities through career expos, job shadowing, internships and other career-education integration initiatives. The Department of Labor and Industry would oversee the programs under an intiative Mackenzie calls CareerBound.

“For decades, America’s youth were told they needed to go to college and get a degree in order to get a good-paying job,” Mackenzie said in a news release last week. “In reality, many great opportunities exist with high salaries that do not require a four-year degree. The difficulty now is to change the cultural perception of such jobs. We are not talking only about plumbers, welders and carpenters anymore — although there is growing earning potential in those fields. We are also talking about careers in the medical and technology fields, as well as law enforcement, business and finance. And students need to be made aware of these opportunities.”

HB 425, which had 18 co-sponsors last week, is expected to go before the House Labor and Industry Committee for consideration.