The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) applauds President Trump for signing the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act on Tuesday.

Last week, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the legislation, which reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that provides federal support to state and local career and technical education (CTE) programs. The law provides $1.3 billion annually for CTE programs across the country.

NLBMDA joined a multi-industry effort in supporting passage of legislation that updates the nation’s workforce development programs, and earlier this year, NLBMDA members met with their representatives and senators regarding this issue at the 2018 Spring Meeting and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. Signing of the law is a major victory for NLBMDA, which strongly supported the legislation.

Earlier this year, the number of job openings in the U.S. exceeded the number of job seekers for the first time since the federal government began tracking the data in 2000. As the gap between the number of jobs posted and the number of available workers has grown, policymakers have looked for ways to help individuals gain the knowledge and skills needed to compete for in-demand jobs.

The Perkins Act has provided a useful policy framework for CTE programs, but it had not been updated since 2006 and no longer reflected the realities and challenges of today’s workforce. Under the new law, the U.S. Department of Education’s role in setting standards for CTE programs is reduced, and state agencies will be allowed to establish performance criteria for CTE programs without federal consultation.

Attracting and retaining quality workers remains a top concern for lumber dealers. Reauthorizing the Perkins Act should provide additional postsecondary pathways to individuals just entering the workforce and give experienced workers new skills needed to meet the needs of employers.

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