NRCA-supported career and technical education legislation is signed into law

In July, Congress approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353), legislation NRCA has long supported to help address current and future roofing industry workforce needs. President Trump signed the bill into law July 31.

Addressing the issue

Given that workforce development is one of the most difficult challenges facing the roofing industry, NRCA prioritized the need for legislation designed to improve career and technical education (CTE). When Congress began developing legislation to reauthorize CTE programs operated under the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins Act), NRCA was well-positioned to work with lawmakers to ensure the legislation addressed roofing industry concerns.

The Perkins Act provides more than $1 billion annually for federally funded CTE programs operated at the state and local levels. In 2015, NRCA helped organize a coalition of business trade groups to develop recommendations designed to improve CTE programs with the goal of more effectively meeting employers' workforce needs. Expanded and improved CTE programs can help provide students with the skills needed to pursue rewarding careers in roofing and other industries that provide family-sustaining jobs.

In 2016, the initial version of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. The bill was approved later that year with strong bipartisan support. However, the Senate did not act on the legislation before the end of 2016, so the bill died at the end of the 114th Congress.

In early 2017, the legislation was reintroduced in the new 115th Congress as H.R. 2353. The slightly revised bill was again approved by the House with overwhelming bipartisan support during the summer. But the bill remained stalled in the Senate as Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions haggled over partisan differences in education policy and funding allocations. In early 2018, it remained unclear whether the Senate would make a serious effort to approve the bill passed by the House or move forward with a separate version.

As the Senate remained gridlocked over the CTE legislation, NRCA and roofing industry partners convened in Washington, D.C., March 6-7 for Roofing Day in D.C. 2018. A key focus of the inaugural advocacy event designed to increase the roofing industry's influence on Capitol Hill was pushing for passage of H.R. 2353. During meetings with senators and representatives, Roofing Day in D.C. 2018 participants from 47 states stressed the need for lawmakers to act on the legislation in 2018 to help the industry address its workforce development needs.

The subsequent enactment of H.R. 2353 demonstrates how strongly the collective voice of the roofing industry was heard on Capitol Hill during Roofing Day in D.C. 2018. In the months that followed, key senators came together to forge a bipartisan compromise that eventually was approved by the Senate. Further efforts to reconcile the Senate's version of H.R. 2353 with the original quickly followed, and the final version of the bill was approved by both chambers in late July before being sent to the president to be signed into law.

The efforts of roofing professionals who engaged in Roofing Day in D.C. 2018 and those of NRCA members who contacted lawmakers through the NRCA Grassroots Advocacy Network clearly helped make a difference regarding this issue of vital importance to our industry.

A team effort

NRCA commends members of Congress for working together to address a key concern of the roofing industry. In particular, NRCA recognizes Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) as well as Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) for their outstanding leadership in support of the legislation.

The final version of H.R. 2353 takes effect July 1, 2019, and authorizes $1.2 billion for career and technical education in fiscal year 2019, up from $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2017, and authorizes funding increases to $1.3 billion by fiscal year 2024.

Reforms included in the new law will promote more effective collaboration between employers and educational institutions at the state and local levels. The law encourages high schools and post-secondary institutions to offer more opportunities for work-based learning programs as well as new incentives for students to earn industry-recognized credentials.

The law also provides new ways to measure the effectiveness of state and local CTE programs and hold states accountable for attaining educational goals that meet the needs of industry employers. Critically, implementation of the law will expand opportunities for more students to gain access to NRCA's worker training and certification program currently in development.

The success of NRCA's advocacy efforts in support of H.R. 2353 through Roofing Day in D.C. 2018 and other advocacy tactics highlights how we can accomplish goals and help influence public policy that benefits our industry. NRCA will provide more detailed information in the near future about how the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act will be implemented in the coming years to give roofing industry employers additional opportunities to partner with educational institutions to help meet their workforce development needs.

Duane L. Musser is NRCA's vice president of government relations.

This column is part of Rules + Regs. Click here to read additional stories from this section.



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