House reauthorizes Perkins Act
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, according to The Hill. Last overhauled in 2006, the legislation allocates money to secondary and postsecondary schools to provide students with job skills training in fields from construction to computer technology.
This rendition of the act requires states to craft programs that meet local labor needs in order to receive funding, along with an explanation for how such programs would help satisfy those needs.
Although the law is widely viewed as a bipartisan issue, there may not be enough time left in the current legislative session for it to win passage in the Senate.
Construction industry associations like the Associated General Contractors of America have long asked Congress to reauthorize the bill, which many say will help develop the next generation of workers to help combat the ongoing skilled labor shortage. In a poll of its member companies earlier this year, the AGC found that 73% planned to add more employees in 2017 in order to keep pace with expected demand, but an equal percentage also anticipated having difficulty finding qualified workers.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order increasing Department of Labor apprenticeship funding to $200 million per year, in order to meet the administration's goal of creating 5 million apprenticeships over the next five years. The Associated Builders and Contractors praised the move, saying it would help the construction industry tackle an estimated 500,000-worker shortage.
Instead of creating additional funding, the executive order diverts money away from existing DOL training programs. Critics say the move, according to Trump's proposed 2018 budget, would see the DOL's training and employment services slashed by 21%, along with other workforce programs.
No matter the level of funding, career and technical training advocates say public perception is one of the biggest hurdles these programs face. The key to breaking through preconceived notions about what it means to be in a vocational or technical education program, one advocate said, is to ensure students are informed of the high-paying career opportunities that skills training can afford them without the burden of student debt.
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