Promoting the HVAC-R Workforce
ACCA members’ number one public policy priority is workforce. We have heard from members across the country who are struggling to find and keep skilled help. This is not a new problem for contractors, the industry, or the skilled trades (though the COVID-19 pandemic has not helped matters any). Even before the onset of the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor statistics predicted that over 115,000 positions would need to be filled over the next five years in the HVAC-R industry alone. ACCA takes the input of its members very seriously, which is why we are actively promoting the development of the HVAC-R industry and the skilled trades.
ACCA is actively supporting several bills in Congress that will promote the HVAC-R workforce and the skilled trades.
The HOPE4HOMES Act of 2021, H.R.3456 and S.1768, is a legislative priority that ACCA previously supported and has been reintroduced in the 117th Congress. This bill contains energy efficiency and workforce development components which both serve to promote the HVAC-R industry. The HOPE (Home Online Performance-Based Energy-Efficiency) program, will provide $500 million to contractor companies to enroll their employees in online skill and training improvement courses. This is paired with the $6 billion HOMES (Home Owner Managing Energy Savings) Rebate Program that will provide incentives for homeowners to invest in energy efficiency improvements.
The Student Debt Alternative and CTE Awareness Act, H.R. 3365, introduced by Representative Roger Williams (TX-25), will require the Department of Education to publish information on the Office of Federal Student Aid website regarding general CTE information, CTE programs in all 50 states, and Perkins funding. Additionally, the FAFSA application must include a one-page summary about CTE programs and how they are a viable alternative to a 4-year degree and requires applicants to sign an acknowledgment box before starting their FAFSA application.
The Supporting Small Business and Career and Technical Education Act, H.R. 3366, also introduced by Representative Williams, will amend the Small Business Act to direct Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) to assist small businesses in hiring graduates from career and technical education programs, in addition to the existing services SBDCs and WBCs provide. The bill also supports career and technical education graduates by directing SBDCs and WBCs to assist them in starting up a small business.
The Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, H.R. 2037 and S. 864, increases the flexibility of Pell Grants by extending eligibility to short-term job training programs which are in high demand. Under current law, Pell Grants — needs-based grants for low-income and working students — can only be applied toward programs that are over 600 clock hours or at least 15 weeks in length, even though many quality job training programs are shorter term. The JOBS Act would amend the Higher Education Act to expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality job training programs that are at least 8 weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials and certificates. Under the bill, eligible programs would offer training that meets the needs of the local or regional workforce.
Career and Technical Education Funding
ACCA has called on Congress to increase funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for FY2022. This funding is vital to the support and development of quality career and technical education programs across the country. We hope to build on recent success, as 2020 was the fourth consecutive year in which funding for career and technical education increased. The current annual allotment for the Perkins Basic State Grant stands at $1.334 billion (an increase of $52.25 million from the previous year).
In addition to supporting good legislation and greater funding for career and technical education, we are working to bring awareness to the opportunities that a career in the HVAC-R industry can provide. In early June, ACCA organized a roundtable discussion with Congressman Roger Williams at Hill College’s HVAC-R and welding campus in Cleburne, Texas. The discussion included small business owners from the surrounding area (including several HVAC-R contractors) and covered many issues including how to attract and retain young workers in the skilled trades. The main takeaway was that there needs to be greater visibility, not just in technical schools, but in elementary, middle, and high schools as well. Students need to know from a young age that there are a multitude of in-demand positions in the skilled trades that provide not just well-paying jobs, but careers with legitimate opportunities for advancement. Not to mention there is a significantly lower barrier to entry than traditional four-year degrees.
If you would like to learn more about ACCA’s efforts to promote the development of the HVAC-R workforce, or if you would like to get involved, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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