DELAWARE COUNTY, PA – Congressmen Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) today joined area labor leaders to call on Congress to pass legislation the lawmakers authored that will make apprenticeships more affordable for individuals seeking a skills-based education.
The lawmakers visited the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 654 in Boothwyn, Delaware County to push for passage of H.R. 3395, the 529 Opening Paths to Invest in Our Nation’s Students (OPTIONS) Act, which enables individuals enrolled in apprenticeship programs to fund tools and equipment for the program out of a “529” college savings plan.
Meehan and Norcross were joined by Delaware County Councilman Dave White, Paul Mullen, Business Manager of IBEW 654, Anthony Gallagher of Steamfitters Local 420, as well as area labor union members and Kevin Tighe of the National Electrical Contractors Association.
“An apprenticeship program shaped my life – taking me from Community College to construction work to Congress,” said Congressman Norcross, an electrician by trade. “Education and job training is not one-size-fits-all – and the rules for savings plans should reflect that truth. The four-year college experience is critical for many, but it’s not for everyone, so it’s important we allow 529s to be used in more than one way that helps shape our workforce. We need electricians and computer programmers, just like we need doctors and judges – and this bill levels the playing field for the students and future workers who start out in apprenticeships.”
“’529’ plans are a terrific tool that makes colleges much more affordable for middle-class families,” said Congressman Meehan. “They allow families to finance their education tax-free and last year more than 11 million Americans invested more than $250 billion in 529 plans. But while they help individuals seeking a college education, they don’t help those who have sought careers in the trades. These unions have apprenticeship programs that are absolutely invaluable. They take countless individuals and teach them the skills they need for a good-paying middle-class job. But despite the obvious value of an education through apprenticeship, the law today doesn’t give enrollees the same chance to use tax-advantaged funds for their tools, textbooks and equipment as is given to college students. This isn’t right, and it’s something that ought to change. That’s what our bill does. It will give individuals more of an incentive to embark on an apprenticeship and it will make it more affordable when they do it.”
Mullen and Gallagher touted the importance of apprenticeship programs and the skills and opportunities they provide for workers. Tighe noted the high starting salaries and job placement rates for apprentices – which often exceed four year degrees. Delaware County Councilman Dave White, a third-generation steamfitter, talked about the value these apprentice programs have for our regional economy. All pushed for strong bipartisan support in Congress.
Contact: Ally Kehoe, Communications Director