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Workforce Shortage: Has Higher Education Funding Harmed the Skilled Trades?

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On January 6, 2016, ACCA formally offered our support and assistance to the Trump Administration and Congress to enact common sense policies that will further economic growth and opportunity.  One of the six specific priorities we underscored, which desperately needed their leadership was workforce.

Issue: The HVACR industry has a considerable shortage of skilled workers, and the problem is accelerating due to constraints within the training pipeline. Skilled labor is vital to promulgate proper installation and maintenance of cutting-edge energy efficient equipment.

Solution: We asked the federal government to prioritize technical education support, especially in high schools, that highlight the benefits of employment careers in the skilled trades while promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. Additionally, the Veterans Administration should support reforms that encourages all states to promote veteran apprenticeship programs with small businesses that have a record of success. Such reforms should highlight the skilled trades and facilitate speedy approval of small business apprenticeship programs. Continued and expanded support will yield long-term benefits to the HVACR industry and the millions of customers our members serve.

Now we’ve climbed the tax reform mountain and transformed the ACCA decade old member goal of immediate expensing of HVAC equipment into an accomplishment, and restored the geothermal tax credit, ACCA is shifting gears.  ACCA has now turned our sights for an all-out push to address the skilled workforce shortage our industry is facing.

I think it is safe to say the promise of postsecondary education is broken. American taxpayers have invested billions of dollars into supporting higher education, meanwhile our businesses are demanding skilled technical workers.  Americans deserve a better postsecondary education system, one that works for students as well as American business owners.

ACCA is committed to having technical education on a level playing field as traditional four-year colleges.  One way we are working to move the needle is through revisions to our current financial aid system, which has created a disparity between technical education and traditional four-year colleges.

Late last year we were pleased to have the opportunity to work with House Education and the Workforce, Chairwoman Representative Virginia Foxx (NC), and serve as an early backer of her bill, H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (PROSPER Act).  ACCA agrees with the authors of this legislation, that we are failing the next generation.  By reforming the federal work-study program, allowing students to use federal student aid for shorter-term programs that will get them into the workforce more quickly, and encouraging partnerships between colleges and industry to expand earn-and-learn opportunities leading to high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand careers.

Representative Foxx (NC) hit the nail on the head when she said the “With six million unfilled jobs and over a trillion dollars in student debt, simply reauthorizing the Higher Education Act will help no one. A hard truth that students, families, and institutions must face is that the promise of a postsecondary education is broken. We need a higher education system that is designed to meet the needs of today’s students and has the flexibility to innovate for tomorrow’s workforce opportunities. The PROSPER Act is higher education’s long overdue reform.”

ACCA has been leading the charge to help address the skill shortage through our efforts to create a national HVAC apprenticeship program, approved by the Department of Labor, but we know much more is needed to address the skill shortage that we and other trades face.  We believe the PROSPER Act will guide students toward growth industries like HVACR and Energy Efficiency, closing a skills gap that has become severe.  The skills gap in our industry needs immediate action.  The provisions of the Act that create incentives for work study initiatives, allowing students the opportunity for work-based learning is very encouraging.  We are pleased to see the focus on high-wage, high-demand jobs.

We are pleased to share on February 8th, the House Committee on Education and Workforce advanced the PROSPER Act. This advancement through the Committee, paves the way for a House vote and beginning its journey through the Senate. ACCA is urging the full House and Senate to move forward in a bipartisan manner and pass this legislation which contains critical provisions to improve the pathway to jobs and addressing our industry’s workforce constraints.

If you would like to share your support for the PROSPER Act please visit ACCA Grassroots Action Center:

Barton James

Posted In: Government

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