The objective of the Perkins Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, also known as Perkins V, is to improve the way career and technical education (CTE) programs are run in schools by easing state and local requirements. The updated law will gradually increase annual funding from $1.2 to $1.3 billion over six years, creating a nearly 11 percent increase over fiscal year 2018 funding levels, expanding the reach of CTE programs to ensure more students can participate.
“It is encouraging to see Congress acting in a bipartisan way to pass a measure that will provide a long-overdue boost to career and technical education in this country,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). “For too long we have chosen to push every student to college instead of providing them with essential and valuable skills. [This] vote marks a key milestone in rebalancing the nation’s educational approach by offering students multiple paths to success.”
Perkins IV went into effect in 2006 and was supposed to be updated five years ago. During that time, the HVAC industry has experienced a shrinking talent pool while the demand for labor has increased faster than the average for all occupations. Technician jobs are expected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026. Not only is the demand increasing, but the current workforce is preparing to retire within the next 10 years.
ACCA played a critical role in Perkins V becoming a law and in encouraging revisions to aid the HVAC industry in particular. Barton James, ACCA’s senior vice president for government relations stated, “ACCA is pleased to see the agreement includes new flexibility to allow states to set benchmarks for career and technical education using grants from the $1.2 billion program, a departure from existing law, which had a complete lack of focus on in-demand job opportunities, like those in HVAC,”.
Perkins V offers each state the ability to design their own grant usage. Rather than following a one-size-fits-all agenda, each state can now design their training to fit with upcoming job opportunities.
HVAC training program curriculums have not been updated in 20 years. The opportunity to update what actually gets taught within HVAC training programs was one of ACCA’s objectives during discussions around Perkins V. ACCAs director of industry relations, Todd Washam, stated, “We need to try to get more schools to teach a curriculum that allows their students to hit the ground running and be productive,” he said. “I mean, on our internal board forum, we see the frustration shine through from contractors about the poor quality of students that they’re getting from the technical schools.”
ACCA has been pressing congress for a level playing field for support for technical training, on par to four-year college programs, as well a DOL approved HVAC curriculum to ensure quality work-force training.
ACCA will continue working with committees in both chambers to clarify the legislative language to ensure that there are no unintended consequences from the new flexibility provided to states or time-consuming administrative requirements for the technical colleges, instead of focusing on provding high-quality CTE programs.