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Kaine & Braun Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help More Americans Access High-Quality Job Training, Get Good-Paying Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) reintroduced the Jumpstarting Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, bipartisan legislation to help more Americans get good-paying jobs by allowing students to use federal Pell Grants to afford high-quality, shorter-term job training programs for the first time. Pell Grants are need-based education grants for low-income and working students. As of now, students can only use Pell Grants for two-year and four-year colleges or universities. By expanding Pell Grant eligibility, the JOBS Act would help close the skills gap and provide workers with the job training and credentials they need for careers in high-demand fields.

“Wherever I go in Virginia, I hear from businesses struggling to fill jobs and from Virginians facing barriers to the job training programs they need to enter or reenter the workforce,” said Kaine, co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus and a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “With these Virginians top of mind, I wrote the JOBS Act to help provide more workers with the skills to get good-paying jobs and provide for their families. This bill is good for workers, employers, and our economy as a whole.”

From 2021-2022, the U.S. economy added nearly 11 million jobs, but workforce participation still remains below pre-pandemic levels, in part because unemployed Americans lack access to the job training needed to fill vacant jobs. Recent legislation passed in Congress, including the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, is expected to create millions of new jobs, but industries are reporting that there won’t be enough skilled workers to fill these openings, underscoring the need for Congress to make investments to train more workers.

“Indiana had over 136,000 jobs go unfilled at the end of 2022. I visit a number of workforce development programs across the Hoosier state on my annual 92 county tour and these programs have done great work to provide hands-on job training to prepare Indiana’s next generation of talent. By expanding opportunities and access to workforce development we can address the nationwide skills shortage and fill American jobs,” said Braun.

“About 50 of our FastForward programs would be eligible for these dollars, making it possible for more students to gain access to the education and training they need to be on the pathway to well-paying jobs,” said Virginia Community College System interim Chancellor Sharon Morrissey. “In the last 5 years our community colleges have put almost 33,000 industry credentials into the workforce directly filling the middle-skill work gap that currently exists in Virginia.  This additional investment, in programs that we know already work and have a 93% completion rate, will allow students more opportunities to obtain those important workforce skills to enter the middle class by filling the jobs businesses struggle to hire for and are so desperately needed.”

The JOBS Act would allow Pell Grants to be used for high-quality job training programs that are at least eight weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials or certificates. Under current law, Pell Grants can only be applied toward programs that are over 600 clock hours or at least 15 weeks in length, rendering students in shorter-term, high-quality job training programs ineligible for crucial assistance.

Specifically, the JOBS Act would amend the Higher Education Act by:

  • Expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in rigorous and high-quality, short-term skills and job training programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials and certificates and ultimately employment in high-wage, high-skill industry sectors or careers
  • Ensuring students who receive Pell Grants are earning high-quality postsecondary credentials by requiring that the credentials:
    • Meet the standards under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), such as meaningful career counseling and aligning programs to in-demand career pathways or registered apprenticeship programs
    • Are recognized by employers, industry, or sector partnerships
    • Align with the skill needs of industries in the state or local economy
    • Are approved by the state workforce board in addition to the U.S. Department of Education
  • Defining eligible job training programs as those providing career and technical education instruction at an institution of higher education, such as a community or technical college that provides:
    • At least 150 clock hours of instruction time over a period of at least 8 weeks
    • Training that meets the needs of the local or regional workforce and industry partnerships
    • Streamlined ability to transfer credits so students can continue to pursue further education in their careers
    • Students with licenses, certifications, or credentials that meet the hiring requirements of multiple employers in the field for which the job training is offered

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Barrasso (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The JOBS Act is supported by Advance CTE, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), Business Roundtable, Cengage Group, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Higher Learning Advocates (HLA), IBM Corporation, Jobs for the Future (JFF), the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB), the National Skills Coalition (NSC), the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC), and the Virginia Community College System.

Full text of the bill is available here, and a summary of the bill is available here.