Buffalo Niagara’s economic growth is being challenged by our inability to place qualified employees in existing job openings and develop a strong pipeline of trained workers for the job opportunities we know are on the horizon. In fact, in the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s Member Pulse Report, our members identified difficulty in finding and retaining qualified talent as a top concern.
The federal government has a role to play in addressing these concerns. That is why calling on Congress to reauthorize the Pell Grant program and the Perkins Career & Technical Education Act is a part of the Partnership’s 2018 Advocacy Agenda.
Pell Grants and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act provide funds for tuition and workplace training. We believe they need to be reauthorized and expanded to the meet the current demand for qualified talent. Unfortunately, these programs face uncertain futures.
The Pell Grant program is a federal subsidy given to individuals enrolled in undergraduate programs. Traditionally Pell funding has not be available to employed individuals seeking skills training in their profession. However current legislation in the House of the Representatives would expand funding. The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform Act would expand the reach of Pell to provide short-term skills training for workers to improve their employability and meet key workforce needs for in-demand fields. A similar proposal is part of President Trump’s infrastructure plan. The President’s plan includes making high-quality, short-term programs that provide students with a certification or credential in an in-demand field eligible for Pell Grants.
The Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is designed to help individuals develop the skills they need to compete for high-skilled, in-demand jobs. In the past, the Perkins Act has provided over $1 billion for career and technical education programs across the country. However, the program has not been updated since 2006. There have been efforts to reform the program, most recently the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. That Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 405-5. Unfortunately, the legislation was not considered in the Senate. We support this House bill because it mandates an alignment between funding and programs designed to meet the needs of regional, state and local labor markets. The President is also calling for a reform of the Perkins Act in his infrastructure plan with a focus on meeting the demands of today’s labor market and a 21st century economy.
The Partnership supports the long overdue reauthorization and expansion of both Pell and Perkins because without deliberate and sustained focus on upskilling the region’s underemployed, we will never fully address our workforce challenges.
2018 Advocacy Defined Blog Series Table of Contents:
- Tax Relief
- Employer Mandates
- TAP Funding
- Healthcare Costs
- Prevailing Wage/Scaffold Law
- Professional Licensing for Immigrants
- Pell & Perkins