In 2015, Congress is expected to consider legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 (Perkins Act). This presents NRCA with the opportunity to work with lawmakers to improve federally funded career and technical education (CTE) programs to address the roofing industry's growing workforce development needs.
The Perkins Act authorizes an array of programs that involve the development of career and technical skills among secondary and postsecondary students who elect to enroll in CTE programs, sometimes referred to as vocational education. The largest program authorized by the Perkins Act is Basic State Grants, which provides formula grants to states for the purpose of developing and implementing CTE programs, services and activities.
Programs of study that receive federal funding must incorporate secondary and postsecondary education elements into a coordinated, nonduplicative progression of courses leading to an industry-recognized credential, certificate or degree. The Perkins Act also authorizes additional programs designed to meet specific CTE needs identified by state and local governments. Perkins Act programs received $1.1 billion in funding for fiscal year 2013.
To prepare for debate and consideration of legislation to reauthorize the Perkins Act, Congress has begun holding hearings to receive input from stakeholders about how the law can be improved and updated since its major rewrite in 2006. As part of this process, NRCA recently participated in a hearing of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus held in Harrisburg, Pa.
The hearing, "The Role of Career and Technical Education in Creating a Skilled Workforce: Perspectives from Employers and Stakeholders," solicited views from construction and other industry representatives about how the law can be improved.
NRCA believes updating and improving CTE programs through reauthorization of the Perkins Act can help the roofing industry. Roofing contractors continue to struggle with finding sufficient numbers of workers with the proper skills for job openings despite vigorous efforts to recruit new employees. As the economy improves in the coming years and demand for workers grows, NRCA expects the problem of finding skilled workers to become more acute. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in the roofing industry is expected to grow 18 percent between 2010 and 2020.
In a statement to lawmakers attending the hearing, NRCA noted legislation to reauthorize the Perkins Act should include innovative reforms that produce better opportunities for high school and postsecondary students to access CTE programs to gain the skills needed to succeed in the roofing industry. Fundamentally, a reauthorized Perkins Act should strengthen the role of employers for developing and implementing CTE programs. In particular, NRCA believes there should be a greater role for programs that support on-the-job training that can be extensively used within the roofing industry.
Finally, NRCA believes there is a need for new and expanded partnerships between employers who understand and can accurately forecast the skills needs of their rapidly changing workforces and CTE educators and institutions.
Where it stands
Lawmakers attending the hearing expressed a high degree of interest in working with NRCA and other stakeholders to improve CTE programs.
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), who chaired the hearing, said: "We have an obligation, whether as local, state or federal policymakers, to ensure all Americans have access to quality programs that will equip them with the skills needed to succeed in an evolving and globally competitive job market."
The hearing provided the opportunity for a productive discussion and exchange of ideas for CTE program improvements between industry stakeholders and lawmakers.
Tamar Jacoby, president of the Opportunity American Jobs and Careers Coalition (which recently was formed by NRCA and other industry organizations to more effectively engage with Congress), also provided detailed policy recommendations at the hearing that were well-received. Jacoby stressed there needs to be more, structured collaboration between educators and employers to ensure CTE programs are providing students with the skills and training needed.
NRCA looks forward to working with lawmakers to ensure legislation to reauthorize the Perkins Act addresses the roofing industry's challenging workforce development needs.
Duane L. Musser is NRCA's vice president of government relations.