By: G. David Sload, President-CEO, ABC Keystone

Americans are ready to rebuild our neglected infrastructure – schools, highways, bridges, dams, public transit. But we also can’t neglect the big challenge ahead of us: filling a shortage of 500,000 skilled construction workers—a number that could double if the promise of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill from Washington becomes a reality.

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, and it comes at the perfect time to celebrate the students, teachers and industry partners who are growing the career readiness of America’s construction workforce.

Here in Manheim, Associated Builders and Contractors – Keystone Chapter has a fully registered and Pennsylvania Department of Labor approved Apprenticeship program which provides an alternative to college for students seeking rewarding and lucrative careers. This program contributes to building the workforce that is in such high demand. Unfortunately, policymakers, administrators and educators too often subscribe to the “college-for-all” mentality. Policymakers at all levels of government should help bridge the skills gap and build the trades workforce of the future.

According to the Association of Career and Technical Education, the federal government spends over $80 billion to assist students pursuing higher education. At the same time, the federal government only spends $1.1 billion to support CTE programs that lead to high wage careers in industries like construction. CTE availability needs more funding and program support.

CTE works, and we need to invest in providing more young Americans with educational opportunities that align with the careers that build and rebuild our communities.

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