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Finally … a Good Idea From Congress?

By Eric Elgin

November 13, 2023

All the talk I hear at local chamber of commerce events and national meetings such as AICC’s is the difficulty in finding and keeping workers. In our corrugated and paperboard industries, it’s been the front-burner issue for the past five years, even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, outranking other challenges such as sluggish supply chains and rising costs. Until now, there’s been little help from our legislators on this, but a new idea has been percolating in the U.S. Congress, and it certainly has my attention: It’s the expansion of state-
sponsored 529 education savings plans beyond the university level to include professional certification, licensing, and ongoing industry-specific training.

AICC, as part of the Tomorrow’s Workforce Coalition, has joined with 648 other industry and professional organizations to urge the passage of the proposed Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act (S. 722 and H.R. 1477). The federal legislation would expand qualified expenses under 529 plans to include postsecondary skills training and credentialing programs such as licenses and nongovernmental certifications. It would also provide valuable tax-advantaged resources for students and workers—with or without college degrees—who pursue career growth, midcareer changes, or career pathways that diverge from a typical academic degree.

We business owners have often maintained that once you get people in our doors and train them in increasingly responsible roles, they will stay with us for their entire careers. The Freedom to Invest legislation would provide our workers with the financial incentive to save and invest in their careers, and our companies would be the beneficiaries of their newly acquired skills. As our letter to Congress states, the bills would transform 529 plans from “college savings plans” to “career savings plans.” You, too, can join in supporting this legislation. Contact your elected officials in the U.S. Senate ( and U.S. House of Representatives ( and urge their support of the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act (S. 722 and H.R. 1477).

Eric Elgin is owner of Oklahoma Interpak and chairman of AICC’s Government Affairs subcommittee. He can be reached at 918-687-1681 or