The labor shortage currently plaguing the door, window and construction industries could see relief in the coming years thanks for a bill passed by Congress recently.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act has passed both the House and the Senate. An amendment to the bill is currently being reviewed by the House. If the amendment is accepted, it will move on to the president’s desk to be signed.

The bill amends the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 to revise and introduce definitions and improve the implementation of career and technical education (CTE) programs in schools by easing state and local requirements.

This bill makes the following revisions to requirements for reservations and state allotment and within-state funding allocations: from 2018 to 2020 no state shall receive an allotment for a fiscal year that is less than its allotment received for FY 1998; from 2021 and on, no state shall receive less than 90 percent of its allotment received for the preceding fiscal year; states are allowed to reserve up to 15 percent (currently 10 percent) of their within-state allocations for current uses; and states may reserve 2 percent (currently 1 percent) of their allocations for leadership activities that serve individuals in juvenile justice facilities and educational institutions serving individuals with disabilities.

These funds can be used to foster innovation through the promotion of promising and proven CTE programs, practices and strategies. The bill also calls for the U.S. Department of Education to appoint the independent advisory panel on the evaluation of CTE programs. The department may award grants to eligible entities, including local education agencies and area CTE schools to create, develop, implement innovations to improve CTE student outcomes. Grant priority shall be given to eligible entities that predominantly serve low-income students.

Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, released a statement in reaction to the bill’s passage.

“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. For too long we have chosen to push every student to college instead of providing them with essential and valuable skills,” he said. “Today’s vote marks a key milestone in rebalancing the nation’s educational approach by offering students multiple paths to success.”

Sandherr called on the president to quickly sign the bill into law so AGC members can begin working with local school districts to begin preparing the next generation of high-earning construction workers.

“Enacting a new career and technical education measure will help address the growing shortage of qualified workers that is keeping many construction firms from hiring even more workers,” he said.

The bill reauthorizes the act through 2023.

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