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New Workforce Resources for ACCA Members

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by: Todd Washam & Valerie Porto

The HVACR industry will experience rapid growth in the coming decades but we are facing mounting workforce challenges. As people retire and new jobs are created it becomes more important than ever that young people are entering our industry. ACCA is employing a comprehensive approach to these workforce challenges to meet the needs of the future. 

As we move into a new decade, ACCA has been looking carefully at strategies and considering many options to deal with workforce challenges. We have been working to ensure that trades education is an integral part of our education system and that students know about the great career opportunities in the HVAC industry. 

One of ACCA’s goals is to recalibrate the Federal Work Study (FWS) program at the U.S. Department of Education. During a recent meeting with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, ACCA agreed to work with the Education Department on a new pilot program for the FWS program. 

The FWS Program is a federally-funded work program that allows qualifying students to earn money while working at a pre-approved organization. This typically includes positions with the school, local nonprofits, government agencies, and approved public-service employers. Most private employers do not qualify as work-study employers, but ACCA is working to change that.

Wages for students in the FWS programs are shared between the federal government and the employer/school. The work study program is meant to improve student’s graduation rates, reduce debt-levels, and ensure good employment for students’ post-graduation.

However, the current system is not accomplishing these goals. Too often, schools retain FWS funds to fill their own labor positions and are not working with businesses to offer work-study outside of the institution. In fact, 90 percent of the work-study funds provided by the federal government are staying within the schools as they use work-study programs to fill administrative and clerical positions on campus instead spending the money on a regular employee. Rather than seeing work-study as an opportunity for students, schools are using the program for low cost labor.  

ACCA is partnering with Secretary DeVos’s office to conduct an “experiment” to get more businesses to partner with schools as qualifying work-study workplaces. Our goals is to offer better practical work experiences for students that could be an asset to someone starting their career. 

Because of ACCA’s advocacy to encourage more trade education, ACCA was invited to work with the Department of Education to ensure that the work-study program works for students and businesses. “The experiment” is a temporary program that seeks to get more work study funds applied to private sector work which benefits students who can gain valuable real-world experience.

The experiment requires a few important changes to the existing program. First, removing the limits on the portion of work-study funds that can support student work with private employers. Second, increasing the number of hours a work-study student can work per week. Third, reducing the portion of wages that must be paid by employers. These aspects taken together allow students more opportunities to pursue employment that can be applied in their careers.  

To participate, contractors will need to engage with schools who are joining this pilot program. The Department of Education is accepting applications from schools to join the pilot program through September 23, 2019. ACCA will provide lists of schools and contact information to make it easy for you to engage schools in your area.

While meeting with Secretary DeVos, ACCA highlighted that careers in the HVACR industry include more than technical work. ACCA members are seeking marketing and communications professionals, trainers, and sales teams. This pilot program could be a great opportunity to get young talent and have their wages subsidized by the government. 

To help ACCA members work more closely with local high schools, ACCA released a guide to Career and Technical Education (CTE) that will help to connect contractors with local high schools and students. ACCA’s guide sets best practices to help contractors establish co-op programs with high school students, engaging with school advisory boards, and attending career fairs.

ACCA also released updated HVACR career flyers to show students that our industry is full of rewarding careers. These resources are all free for ACCA members and we strongly encourage you to utilize them in your workforce development efforts. 

Addressing workforce challenges is one of ACCA’s highest priorities. If you have more ideas or questions about these new member benefits or the FWS, please call or e-mail and we will help!

Valerie Porto
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Posted In: ACCA Now, Government, Training

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