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Kaine Applauds House Passage of America COMPETES Act, Including His Bipartisan JOBS Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine — co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus and member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee — applauded House passage of the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act, a major investment in America’s scientific and technological advantage, which includes his bipartisan JOBS Act. Introduced with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in March 2021, the JOBS Act will make high-quality, shorter-term education and training programs eligible for federal Pell Grants so workers can afford the job training and credentials necessary for in-demand careers. The America COMPETES Act now heads to conference to reconcile differences with the Senate companion legislation, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The COMPETES Act would also help mitigate supply chain issues and increase domestic productive capacity.

“I appreciate the engagement of Chairman Scott to support the bipartisan work of Representatives Levin and Gonzalez to include the JOBS Act in the House America COMPETES bill,” said Senator Kaine. “This is a step in the right direction to ensure that people who wish to take postsecondary skills training to get good jobs are not denied access to federal financial aid. With the major shifts COVID has brought to the job market, expanding the kinds of education we consider Pell Grant-eligible will allow workers to quickly equip themselves with employable skills and find a good-paying job. Investing in our labor force in this way will improve economic mobility for individuals and advance our national economy overall. There are still some technical changes that I’d like to see to the JOBS Act amendment to help align it with the Senate version we’ve been working on, but this is overwhelmingly a positive step.”

In addition, the America COMPETES Act includes multiple priorities related to foreign policy. It contains Kaine’s bipartisan Safeguarding Internet Freedom in Hong Kong Act to strengthen the ability of Hong Kongers to share information online amid the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to suppress peaceful assembly and communication.

Under current law, Pell Grants — needs-based grants for low-income and working students — can only be applied toward programs that are over 600 clock hours or at least 15 weeks in length, even though many quality job training programs are shorter term. The JOBS Act will amend the Higher Education Act to expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality job training programs that are at least 8 weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials and certificates.  

Under the JOBS Act, eligible programs will offer training that meets the needs of the local or regional workforce. In Virginia, the Virginia Community College System has identified approximately 50 programs that would benefit from the JOBS Act, including in the fields of health care, manufacturing, energy, information technology, transportation, architecture and construction, maritime, and business management and administration.  

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

  • Expanding Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in rigorous and high-quality short-term job training programs that lead to industry-based credentials and ultimately employment in high-wage, high-skill industry careers
  •  Ensuring that 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
    • Align with the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act’s program of study definition
    • 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
    • Institutional credit articulation 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 JOBS Act is endorsed by the National Skills Coalition (NSC), the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Opportunity America, Jobs for the Future, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Advance CTE, Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC), Higher Learning Advocates, Business Roundtable, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), IBM, American Student Assistance, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Student Veterans of America, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Shipbuilders Council of America, the American Trucking Associations, and the Virginia Community College System.  

Senator Kaine would like to thank his Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor Karishma Merchant for her hard work on this important piece of legislation.