As workforce development becomes increasingly important to the roofing industry, NRCA remains focused on improving federal policy regarding career and technical education.
Current demographic trends and economic conditions are expected to make finding skilled candidates for job openings even more difficult for roofing companies in the future, and having access to effective, well-funded career and technical educational programs will be vital to building a strong workforce.
The first step toward improving federal career and technical educational policy was enactment of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. This legislation was designed to address future workforce needs by reforming and expanding career and technical education. During Roofing Day in D.C. 2018, more than 400 roofing professionals converged on Capitol Hill to support the legislation. After hearing the roofing industry speak about the need for more effective career and technical education, lawmakers worked on a bipartisan basis to approve the bill. It was signed into law by President Trump July 31, 2018.
The new law, which took effect July 1, 2019, reauthorizes and reforms the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. Because Perkins Act programs are operated at the state and local levels, state agencies now are working with stakeholders to implement the law’s reforms, which are designed to enable more effective collaboration between employers and educational institutions in the development of career and technical educational programs.
The reforms encourage high schools and post-secondary institutions to offer more opportunities for work-based training programs and new incentives for students to earn industry-recognized credentials such as those provided through NRCA’s ProCertification™ program. The law also provides new ways to measure effectiveness and hold educational institutions accountable for attaining the overarching goal of targeting career and technical education to meet the workforce needs of state and local employers.
To maximize the law’s effectiveness, there must be sufficient funding from Congress. The law increases the authorized level of funding for career and technical educational programs by 10.57%, increasing from about $1.1 billion in 2017 to $1.3 billion annually by 2023. However, authorized funding levels are only the first step in providing federal funding because Congress provides the actual funding during the annual appropriations process.
Every year, Congress determines how much funding to provide for numerous functions and programs through 12 appropriations bills that focus on different agencies within the federal government. For the Perkins Act, Congress allocates funding to Perkins Basic State Grants through legislation that provides funding for the Department of Education, which then allocates funding to state agencies to be used for career and technical education.
For example, in fiscal year 2017, Congress provided $1.118 billion for Perkins Basic State Grants. The funding is divided among the 50 states using a complex formula based on population and poverty levels. Many states also supplement the federal funds with their own spending for career and technical educational efforts.
As Congress considered appropriations for fiscal year 2020, which began Oct. 1, 2019, NRCA worked with allied organizations in support of increased funding for Perkins Basic State Grants. This funding is critical to high schools, community colleges, employers and students who need training to help close the skills gaps in the workforce.
In appropriations legislation passed in late 2019, Congress provided $1.283 billion in funding for Perkins Basic State Grants, an increase of $20 million compared with fiscal year 2019. In an era of growing federal budget deficits, any increase in funding is welcome, but the increase is only 1.6%, which barely keeps pace with inflation. Unfortunately, congressional appropriations for Perkins Act career and technical educational programs have not kept pace with growing demand in recent years, and total Perkins Act funding remains lower than it was a decade ago on an inflation-adjusted basis.
To address the growing need for a skilled workforce, Congress must place a higher priority on career and technical educational investments in future years.
Career and technical education helps students access opportunities to develop skills, increase their knowledge and contribute to their communities by pursuing rewarding trade careers. The failure to make strong investments in career and technical education will negatively affect students who are striving to obtain relevant job skills. Congress will need to hear more from employers and other stakeholders regarding career and technical educational programs, including those in the roofing industry, to overcome the many competing interests for increasingly scarce federal funds.
NRCA believes increasing investments in Perkins Act programs are critical to the success of the reform law passed in 2018. With sufficient funding, the law will help provide roofing industry employers with the tools needed to address their future workforce needs. NRCA will continue working to advocate for increased funding for Perkins Act programs during Roofing Day in D.C. 2020, to be held April 21-22 in Washington, D.C., and through additional advocacy efforts in the months and years ahead.
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