OLYMPIA — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker to expand and enhance career opportunities for youth experiencing homelessness or in the state, tribal or federal foster care system was signed into law today by Gov. Inslee.

“There is a huge need to expand access and opportunity for children, particularly those who face immense obstacles or lack the support of their families,” said Ranker, D-Orcas Island. “With stronger services to guide them through junior high and high school, and ensure they’re prepared with needed prerequisites, these youth will have better opportunities to pursue their dreams.”

Senate Bill 6274 builds on a successful scholarship program, the Passport to College program, to create the Passport to Careers program, guiding youth in the foster care system or experiencing homelessness into higher education or apprenticeship programs that help lead to a meaningful career.

This law makes Washington the first state in the nation to guarantee financial support for both higher education tuition and apprenticeship costs. Passport to Careers will nearly double the number of eligible students by lowering the eligibility age from 16 to 13, including children in the federal or tribal foster care system, including youth experiencing homelessness, and allowing apprenticeship credentials in addition to college credentials. Washington established an ambitious goal of increasing the percentage of state residents with a postsecondary credential to 70 percent, and this bill helps reach that goal.

“Not everyone learns the same way or sees college as the best path forward for their careers. We need to help students find the right tracks to success through college or apprenticeship learning,” Ranker said. “We need to put our children on the best path for their future, whether it is in manufacturing, software development and clean technology, or in teaching, the arts and human services.”