Those who supply equipment for the construction industry are renewing their call for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington to briefly put down their partisan swords and come together to address the skilled labor shortage in America.
In a letter to Republicans and Democrats alike, Associated Equipment Distributors President and CEO Brian McGuire asked the “House and Senate to complete work on both Carl D. Perkins Act re-authorization legislation and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) before the end of the year.”
The Perkins act is aimed at increasing the quality of technical education in the United States. The Water Resources Development Act would authorize 25 Army Corps of Engineers projects across 17 states. The bill's description says, "These projects, which have undergone Congressional scrutiny and have completed reports of the Chief of Engineers, will strengthen our nation’s infrastructure to protect lives and property, restore vital ecosystems to preserve our natural heritage, and maintain navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods to keep us competitive in the global marketplace."
“While the congressional calendar is limited due to the upcoming election, the construction equipment industry hopes Congress will focus on addressing two top policy priorities - addressing the nation’s skilled worker shortage and investing in Army Corps of Engineers projects, such as building, maintaining and improving harbors, dams, locks and navigation channels,” McGuire wrote.
“By reauthorizing the Perkins Act and reinforcing CTE programs, educators and their partners in the business community can improve student outcomes and provide the skills required to be successful in the workforce (or continuing education),” he said.
McGuire’s letter echoes the thoughts of a coalition of construction industry groups, which earlier this year sent a similar letter to congressional leaders. The full list of the trade associations involved can be found here.
"Simply put, by making technical education a priority, Congress can help better prepare workers for well-paying careers, ensure that U.S. companies are able to seize new business opportunities, and make the United States more competitive in the global economy," those groups wrote back in April.
The trade associations pointed to a study sponsored by the Associated Equipment Distributors and conducted at the College of William & Mary.
Researchers found “the equipment technician shortage is costing dealers approximately $2.4 billion per year in lost revenue and economic opportunity and that the average job open rate for technical positions at construction equipment dealerships is more than three times the national average."
That study also said "a lack of hard skills is the top reason technician positions are going unfilled, that high school, community college, and technical school curricula are not aligned with employer needs, and that the skills gap has hindered company growth and increased costs and inefficiencies.”