NRCA continues to work with Congress to improve federal policy governing career and technical education (CTE) in an effort to address members' future workforce development challenges. In June, the House of Representatives approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353), legislation that would reform and reauthorize CTE programs operated under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.
An ongoing concern
NRCA believes more effective CTE programs are vital to the long-term prosperity of the roofing industry. It is becoming increasingly difficult for contractors, manufacturers, distributors and other industry employers to find enough workers to fill job openings despite vigorous efforts to recruit new employees. NRCA expects this issue will become even more acute in the future given the current demographic trends of an aging workforce, greater numbers of students pursuing four-year college degrees and the physically demanding nature of roofing work.
NRCA is urging Congress to improve and expand CTE programs to help meet the growing need for skilled applicants for well-paying roofing jobs. NRCA member companies provide fulfilling career opportunities for those with the proper skills and work ethic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the mean hourly wage for roofing workers was $22.14 in 2016, and there are many opportunities for advancement within roofing companies. Reformed and expanded CTE programs can help provide students with the skills needed to pursue rewarding lifelong careers in the roofing industry.
Seeking a solution
In 2015, Congress began developing legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which authorizes and provides more than $1 billion in funding for CTE programs at secondary and post-secondary levels. Policies governing these programs have not been updated by Congress since 2006, and their effectiveness for meeting the current needs of employers is clearly in question.
NRCA has worked with lawmakers to develop policies designed to improve and expand CTE opportunities to meet the challenging workforce development needs of our members. The goal is to provide new opportunities for employers to collaborate with educators at the state and local levels to develop CTE programs designed to achieve employers' workforce objectives.
NRCA and allied groups developed recommendations designed to enhance opportunities for students to access CTE programs that will prepare them to enter the roofing industry.
For example, a reauthorized Perkins Act will provide maximum flexibility in the design of CTE programs to ensure they are truly effective for meeting rapidly changing economic demands. In addition, there is a need for expanded employer-sponsored internships, on-the-job training opportunities, new sector partnerships between employers and educational institutions, and more incentives for the development of industry-recognized credentials. These reforms would complement and expand opportunities for NRCA's ProCertification worker training program currently in development.
In 2016, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) introduced the first iteration of H.R. 2353, which included policy recommendations developed by NRCA and allied groups. The bill was approved by the House in September 2016 with strong bipartisan support, but the Senate failed to take action before adjourning the 114th Congress at the end of 2016.
At NRCA's urging, lawmakers in the House renewed their efforts in 2017, and a revised bill was approved by the House with strong bipartisan support in June. With House passage complete, the focus again shifts to the Senate. NRCA already has met with several Senate offices to urge swift action on the legislation. Despite strong bipartisan support for the bill in the House, partisan differences over education policy present a formidable obstacle to Senate passage. In the current hyper-partisan political environment, achieving the bipartisan consensus needed to get any legislation enacted into law always is difficult.
It is critical all NRCA members support this effort by contacting their senators in support of the bill. Please visit the NRCA Grassroots Advocacy Network at roofingadvocacy.nrca.net and click on "Take action" and then "NRCA Action Alert: Urge your senators to support H.R. 2353, CTE legislation to reform and improve CTE programs" to send an email of support to your senators. If you would like to schedule a meeting with one of your senators at their in-state office to advocate for the legislation, contact NRCA's Washington, D.C., office at (800) 338-5765.
NRCA recognizes the importance of workforce development to its members and will continue working with lawmakers to pass the legislation. When implemented in the coming years, programs developed under the reforms in H.R. 2353 could be critical to enabling roofing industry employers to meet their workforce needs.
Duane L. Musser is NRCA's vice president of government relations.