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House Reauthorizes Perkins Act

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

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On Thursday (June 22) the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize an act that would help address current labor difficulties in a number of different sectors.

The Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is intended to improve technical education for students by giving states access to federal resources to provide training for changing labor markets. The act would also help with building better community partnerships and increasing employer engagement. In order to receive funding from the act, states must explain how the skills training they provide would meet the labor demand.

Smallman12q, CC by 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There has been sweeping industry support—from construction to technology—of the House’s vote to reauthorize the act.

In 2006, when the Perkins Act was last revised, there was a shift in focus from vocational training to technical and career education. However, the national climate is shifting again toward skilled labor, as the passage of the Perkins Act comes one week after President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that would increase federal funding for apprenticeships to $200 million—about double what it is now.

The order aimed to address the “skills gap” that influenced labor shortages, such as the estimated 500,000-job shortage in the construction industry, and the 6 million vacant jobs in the United States.

Industry Support

There has been sweeping industry support—from construction to technology—of the House’s vote to reauthorize the act. This includes Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. He said in a statement:

“House passage of the new career and technical education legislation is an important step for creating the kind of programs needed to recruit and prepare students for high-paying careers in construction. The legislation embraces key reforms we have long championed, including allowing school officials to tailor programs to the skills needed by local employers.”

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has spent quite a bit of time pulling for the creation of training opportunities for non-college degree-holding workers in the technical field. In the past, IBM has consistently campaigned for such programs.

The act also received early support from trade association Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies like Amazon and Intel. ITI president Dean Garfield explained that companies were investing millions of dollars on workforce training programs, but industry effort alone could not meet increasing demand. “That is why we support reauthorizing the Perkins Act and modernizing it so students can get the education and skills needed to pursue careers in high-demand industries and technical fields,” Garfield said.

While tthe reinstatement of the Perkins Act seems to be supported from all sides, it must still pass the Senate before reaching the president's desk. The White House has not released a statement as to whether Trump is expected to sign.


Tagged categories: Government; Worker training

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