Building Tomorrow's Workforce: Why Associations Need the 529 Plan Expansion

September 20, 2023
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A strong workforce is the foundation of a strong economy. But too often, American workers lack access to the resources they need to gain the skills, training, and credentials required to fill good-paying jobs in fast-growing fields. The bipartisan Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act aims to change that by expanding 529 college savings plans to cover more workforce training and development costs.  

The Tomorrow's Workforce Coalition strongly supports this legislation, which would allow families to use 529 savings for postsecondary vocational, career, and technical training programs leading to recognized credentials and certifications. Workers seeking to upskill, change careers midstream, or pursue non-traditional education pathways would benefit. By investing in the current and future workforce, we can ensure individual opportunity and national economic competitiveness.

Association leaders, this is incredibly exciting news for you! The proposed Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow's Workforce Act would allow people to use their 529 college savings plans for career-related credentials and certifications, aka YOUR CONTENT! This change would empower lifelong learners—including many of your own members and stakeholders—to pursue continuous education and training throughout their working lives.  

Tapping into their 529 savings, members could obtain industry certifications, technical qualifications, and professional licenses that enable them to advance and thrive in the modern job market. This is an incredible opportunity to cultivate and unleash America's hunger for knowledge, skills, and personal growth.  

The bipartisan bill expands 529 plans to cover more workforce development costs, allowing more people to invest in their futures. This will fuel workforce readiness and America's global competitiveness.  

What You Need to Know

What are 529 Savings Plans?

A 529 is a special savings account for education expenses. It is sponsored by states and allows you to invest money for future education costs. If you use the money in a 529 plan to pay for approved education expenses, you don't have to pay federal tax on the money you take out of the account. Approved expenses include college, graduate school, vocational training programs, up to $10,000 per year for private K-12 school, and certain student loan repayments. 529 plans allow tax-free savings and growth to help you afford education and training costs for yourself or other family members.  

What’s the Issue We’re Trying to Solve?

Currently training and credentials are ineligible for 529s. Most jobs in America are "middle-skill" positions. These jobs require training and education beyond high school, but not a full 4-year college degree. Examples include jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, IT and the skilled trades.  

One key way workers can gain the skills for these jobs is through career and technical credentials, certifications, and licenses. These credentials are earned through vocational programs, community college courses, apprenticeships, and other non-degree training. Credentials allow workers to quickly gain job-ready skills without needing a lengthy degree. In today's workforce, both college grads and non-grads benefit from obtaining credentials aligned with in-demand jobs, opening doors to better careers for all types of workers.

How Does the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act Address the Problem?

According to The Power of Associations, the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act would enable families to use 529 plans to help cover:

  • Credential program tuition, including prep courses;
  • Testing fees, including practice exams;
  • Required books and equipment;
  • Continuing education and credential renewal; and
  • Other charges required to obtain and maintain a credential

Learn more about the Tomorrow’s Workforce Coalition from The Power of Association’s here.

Support is continuing to build in Congress for legislation. Blue Sky eLearn has joined Tomorrow’s Workforce Coalition’s efforts as we see how vital this will be to continue to differentiate associations as they continue to support their missions, industries, and constituents.  

So, now that you’re excited about the possibilities, what can you do to help?

How Can Your Organization Help?
  1. Join Tomorrow’s Workforce Coalition: There are no financial requirements and employers of all types (i.e., both nonprofits and businesses) and in every sector of the economy are welcome members. Hundreds of organizations have joined already—there’s strength in numbers!
  1. Add your organization's name to the Power of Associations community sign-on letter here.
  1. Invite your peers and other organizations to join!  

Together we can change our world and the impact our organizations can have on the future of how we work. What stands in front of us is a strong proposition for associations to remain relevant to an ever-changing workforce. You can make a difference in the education and advancement of these individuals for years to come, but action is needed now to make it happen.    

The deadline to sign the letter is September 26th—so act now! And make sure to contact your representatives to voice your support. Check out this page by The Power of Associations through ASAE for the latest updates.  

About the Author

Amanda Davis, CMP, Chief Experience Officer
Amanda has over 15 years of experience in the association world, strategically focused on learning products. With multiple association roles as Director of Learning & Development and Online Learning Manager, Amanda has a deep understanding of the adult learning landscape and what keeps association executives up at night. As Chief Experience Officer, Amanda now oversees the end-to-end experience for our growing mix of association clients. She is dedicated to fostering positive, productive relationships, and ensuring associations have an excellent experience partnering with our organization. Amanda draws on her background in learning strategy and association management to advise clients and shape an experience that enables their success.

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