Congress introduces bill that strengthens career and technical education

Both Republican and Democratic members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce recently introduced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, a positive step for the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association, which has been advocating for increased support from Congress on crucial workforce development initiatives.

To view a complete list of proposed improvements under this reformed act, click here.

Representatives from PHCC reinforced those efforts this past spring at two legislative events on Capitol Hill – a special Workforce Development Roundtable in April and the annual PHCC Legislative Conference in May – where conference participants met face-to-face with policymakers about the critical workforce shortage in the PHC industry.  A 21-percent increase in the number of plumbing and HVAC technicians is projected by the year 2022.

This new legislation reauthorizes and reforms the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act to help more Americans enter the workforce with the skills they need to compete for these high-skilled, in-demand jobs. Because the Perkins Act has not been updated in more than a decade, it no longer reflects the realities and challenges facing students and workers today. With that, the reformed act - among other things - promotes the implementation of more innovative CTE programs by increasing the amount of federal funding available for advanced state leadership strategies and activities that will best serve the current and future needs of students, employers and communities.

To ensure equitable access to federally funded CTE programs, the U.S. Dept. of Education, under the reformed act, will have full authority to approve state and local plans, support program improvement and monitor and enforce statutory requirements that will ensure program quality and educational equity for CTE students.

"Today's CTE programs work to prepare millions of students for lifelong success and help bridge the divide between high school and postsecondary education and training," says Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA). "This bipartisan bill prioritizes equity of opportunity for all students to participate in, and benefit from, high-quality CTE programs and will prepare them for high-skill, high-wage jobs that lead to economic self-sufficiency in the 21st century workforce."

Funding levels under this reauthorization of the Perkins Act indicate a step increase each year, from $1.133 billion in 2017 to $1.213 billion in 2022. The 2017 level reflects an increase of $15 million over the existing 2016 level.

The reformed act also aims to improve current law by supporting the integration of employability skills into CTE programs. Employability skills were a key discussion point between PHCC and the House Congressional Career & Technical Education Caucus at the Workforce Development Roundtable in April. PHCC's representatives offered targeted solutions on how they're helping to ensure that students - and eventually employees - reach businesses with those all-important "soft skills," such as communication, courtesy, customer service, appearance, organization, teamwork, and leadership.

"PHCC is extremely pleased to see Congress initiating the expansion of the Perkins Act to include more innovative strategies to attract future workers to our industry," said PHCC-National President Charles "Chip" E. Greene. "We look forward to working with Congress on this critical workforce development issue that will help recruit and train workers for our industry."

 

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