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Even in the hyperpolitical environment of the U.S. Capitol and White House, some significant legislative accomplishments are positively affecting the equipment distribution industry. During the last half of the 115th United States Congress, the House of Representatives voted for the final passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education ACT for the 21st Century Act, commonly known as Perkins V, which will modernize career and technical education (CTE) programs to address the skills gap and educate students for in-demand jobs. This federal legislation provides a supplemental resource to CTE programs that are already supported by state and local governments. The purpose of Perkins V is to more fully develop the academic knowledge and the technical and employability skills of secondary and post-secondary students. With the reauthorization of this legislation, Congress inserted a new provision that requires each state to work with all industry stakeholders to develop and submit detailed plans to the U.S. Department of Education. The regulations provide a blueprint of how the state intends to distribute its share of the $1.3 billion in funds appropriated by Congress to the Department of Education.

With state agencies tasked with meeting the demands of the industry, AED and The AED Foundation found an opportunity to achieve a part of The AED Foundation’s mission of providing educational opportunities for today’s employees and improving the availability and quality of equipment industry employees in the future. With the help of members and industry advocates, AED sent correspondence to every state CTE director requesting to be a part of their stakeholder engagement process as they develop their state funding plans as required by Perkins V. These partnerships are critical as we continue to address the workforce shortage that is costing the equipment industry over $2.4 billion a year in potential revenue.

Alabama’s Association of Career/Technical Administrators replied to our initial outreach with an invitation to tour a high school diesel program as well as two of what the administration considers to be their best diesel programs in Alabama. With no hesitation, Jason Blake, COO of The AED Foundation, Marty McCormack, associate director of development and workforce, and I marked our calendars for a trip to Alabama. We went into this trip with anticipation of an excellent opportunity to build relationships but were uncertain of what the exact outcome or the takeaways would be.

What we discovered as a major takeaway is that there is demand from the diesel equipment programs at community colleges and technical schools for accreditation/validation of the curriculum and instruction being delivered to students. Not only is this encouraging to The AED Foundation, but it should excite the industry as well because an accredited program should be producing higher-quality technicians. We at The AED Foundation were impressed by all the programs we observed, and we believe that one of the two colleges will be accredited within the next two years.

“The workforce shortage is real, and the best way to address this critical challenge is through partnerships through industry and educational institutions,” said Scott, who serves as the technical education administrator for career and technical education in Alabama. “We look forward to working with The AED Foundation and the equipment distribution industry throughout Alabama to ensure students are learning the critical skills needed to excel in today’s workforce.”

This simple outreach laid the groundwork for the opportunity to grow diesel programs throughout Alabama and to continue to improve the workforce shortage in the area. One phone call or letter to your state CTE director asking what your company can do to help close the skills gap could very well result in new relationships and, ideally, new employees.

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