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A Message from ACCA’s President & CEO On Workforce Development

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In the July edition of IE3 Magazine, I wrote about changing our message and presenting the HVACR industry as a promising opportunity, not an “either-or” choice between college and the skilled trades.  I’m pleased to report that this message is spreading.

More importantly, however, I am pleased that numerous individuals and organizations have been taking action to address the worker shortage and to emphasize integrated education and career readiness programs.  The number of forces that came together and the pace of events that took place this summer was dizzying, but through it all, ACCA was playing a leadership role and supporting America’s HVACR contractors.

At the beginning of summer, President Trump dubbed June 12-16 “Workforce Development Week,” kicking it off with a tour of Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin.  Alongside his daughter Ivanka and Secretary of Labor Acosta, President Trump announced support for more apprenticeship programs.  During the tour, President Trump stated that “America must not only teach but celebrate the skilled laborers that produce and maintain the world’s greatest machines, buildings, products and infrastructure, innovations that improve our quality of life.”

To accompany his “earn while you learn” message, President Trump released his “Expanding Apprenticeships in America” Executive Order (EO).  The EO states that “[M]any colleges and universities fail to help students graduate with the skills necessary to secure high paying jobs in today’s workforce.  Far too many individuals today find themselves with crushing student debt and no direct connection to jobs.”  The EO directs the Federal Government to “provide more affordable pathways to secure, high paying jobs by promoting apprenticeships and effective workforce development programs.”

The Administration’s events and messaging during “Workforce Development Week” were important, but the subsequent events that occurred across the country were even more promising.

The following week, on the heels of the President’s EO, Secretary Acosta commenced on a nationwide tour promoting expanded apprenticeship programs and other initiatives to close the skills gap.  At one event, Secretary Acosta hit the nail on the head by stating that we “must create a system of demand driven education that gives young people the skills they need to do today’s jobs and the jobs of tomorrow.”  Not only was the Secretary on message, he also announced that the Administration will be “building a new paradigm in education” by investing millions of dollars into expanded apprenticeship programs.

I am thrilled that the Trump Administration is advocating for the skilled trades.  I am also proud that ACCA was standing alongside the Secretary of Labor and his staff to ensure that the voice of the HVACR industry was front and center.

Coinciding with Secretary Acosta’s efforts, SkillsUSA, an organization solely focused on technical education, held its annual week-long event in Louisville.  SkillsUSA holds technical competitions between top students in dozens of trade-related education programs, including HVACR.  ACCA’s Warren Lupson was leading the HVACR competition and working with students and educators to promote the evolving technological opportunities that are available throughout our industry.  Although there is a nationwide drought of technicians, events like the SkillsUSA competition, show promise that we are moving in the right direction and inspiring young people.

The finale of this two-week focus on the skilled trades was National HVAC Technician Day, and the culmination of events that occurred on this day was something I’ve never seen before.  On June 22, we honor skilled technicians who ensure our homes and buildings are healthy and comfortable.  ACCA celebrated the day by working with Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-2), a fellow HVACR/plumbing contractor, to fly ACCA’s American flag over the U.S. Capitol.  ACCA will be presenting this special flag to its Service Manager of the Year award winner.  Also on June 22, the House of Representatives came together to pass the Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the 21st Century Act which provides funding for technical education programs.

All of this is very inspiring, and promising, but there is more to be done and ACCA will continue to lead the way.  But, we will need your help.  ACCA is pushing the Senate to pass the CTE Act and we will be activating our grassroots efforts if the Senate stalls on this vital legislation.

ACCA will also be working with officials in the Trump Administration to ensure they are following through on their commitment to the skilled trades.  In fact, we have invited the Secretary of Labor to the ACCA conference that will be held in Washington, D.C. in February 2018.  We are excited to be working with the Secretary and believe it is important for ACCA members to welcome him and support his efforts.

I am certain that ACCA, led by Chairman Don Langston,  is making a difference for our industry, and I am excited to see ACCA members, our Facebook and Twitter followers, and ACCA staff fully engaged in these efforts.  All of us must keep pushing!

Thank you, and I hope you had a successful summer!

Paul Stalknecht
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Opinion

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