- The state of Virginia has shortened the time span needed for skilled workers in the state to become licensed as journey-level tradesworkers and eliminated its requirement for continuing education in the trades. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, announced the changes Aug. 26 in an effort to help solve the state’s severe construction labor shortage.
- The changes were panned by at least one labor-focused group. Greg Akerman, Northern Virginia director for the Baltimore-D.C. Metro Building and Construction Trades Council, said the changes could create safety issues and other complications for contractors in the state.
- “It’s kind of solving a problem that doesn’t exist,” Akerman told Construction Dive. “It’s [Youngkin’s] attempt to reduce regulations and reduce barriers, but what they’re doing is actually creating less skilled electricians and plumbers.”
The changes, which affect fields such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC and gas fitting, include:
- Reducing the number of years of experience required from four to two years for skilled workers to become licensed as journey-level tradesworkers.
- Adding additional license qualification pathways that will allow workers to become licensed via combinations of experience and training.
- Eliminating the regulatory mandate for continuing education.
“Increasing opportunities for people to become licensed in high-demand, high-paying jobs while also helping businesses find the talent they desperately need will strengthen our commonwealth,” Youngkin said in the announcement.
But Stephen Courtien, president of BDCBT, told Construction Dive that the reductions could lead to less experienced electricians and plumbers taking on jobs they are not prepared for.
Beyond jobsite issues, shoddy workmanship can cause problems for a building after completion, Courtien said. For example, incorrect electrical work could cause fire hazards and pipes with improperly set pitch could lead to contaminated water.
“What we’ve gotten from a lot of contractors both union and nonunion is that this is going to cause safety issues in the industry not just for the employee but the general public,” said Courtien.
Continuing education requirements for the trades had “no clearly identifiable public protection benefit,” the governor said in the announcement, but Courtien said the practice helps contractors keep employers up to date on regulations and technological advancements.
Finally, the deregulation could create more hassle for workers who do business outside of Virginia, like in nearby Maryland and Washington, D.C., Akerman said. Employees or businesses may need extra paperwork to conduct work or get consistent pay levels, as Virginia’s requirements now differ from those of nearby jurisdictions.
“It’s actually making Virginia business way less competitive,” Akerman said.