Trump Signs Legislation that Encourages Occupational Licensing Reform

On July 31, President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act.

The law reauthorizes and fortifies the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for the first time since 2006, when Congress last authorized it.


According to a letter that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent to Senate members in June urging passage, the new act helps to “ensure that America’s students acquire the necessary skills to succeed in today’s high-skilled workforce.”

The Committee on Education and the Workforce praised the legislation on its website, describing the act’s accomplishments as listed below:

  • Empowers state and local community leaders by simplifying the application process for receiving federal funds and providing more flexibility to use federal resources to respond to changing education and economic needs.
  • Improves alignment with in-demand jobs by supporting innovative learning opportunities, building better community partnerships, and encouraging stronger engagement with employers.
  • Increases transparency and accountability by streamlining performance measures to ensure [career and technical education] programs deliver results, empowering parents, students, and stakeholders with a voice in setting performance goals and evaluating the effectiveness of local programs.
  • Ensures a limited federal role by reining in the secretary of education’s authority, limiting federal intervention, and preventing political favoritism.

“The law creates new opportunities to improve [career and technical education] and enables more flexibility for states to meet the unique needs of their learners, educators, and employers,” said Scott Stump, Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education.


Importantly, the law provides states with funding to study the effects of burdensome occupational licenses and certifications, which will hopefully serve as a catalyst for occupational licensing reform across the nation.

The government currently restricts the ability to work in certain professions through occupational licensing requirements such as training programs, fees, and exams. These regulations are intended to protect consumers from unsafe practices or services; however, in reality, they instead often function as industry protectionism by creating unnecessary, expensive, and time-consuming barriers to entry — and to earning a living.

Governors and state legislators should seize the opportunity presented by this legislation to fully examine the negative effects of over-burdensome occupational licensing and to reduce or eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing requirements.

At the Washington Examiner, Jared Meyer and Mitchell Siegel of the Foundation for Government Accountability explained the harm caused by occupational licensing and revealed how much it has expanded in the last few decades:

In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that more than a quarter of workers need a license to work, a substantial increase from the 1950s when this number was only 5 percent. This five-fold increase harms economic opportunity by making it more difficult for people to find work in low- to middle-income jobs, discouraging individuals from climbing the economic ladder and leading to more government dependency.


This bill was a good first step towards eliminating excessive and burdensome government regulations, but it cannot be the last. Government should not stand in the way of Americans attempting to earn a living, and it is possible for the federal government to encourage state governments to reduce burdensome licensing requirements without overstepping its power.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act goes into effect on July 1, 2019.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.



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