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Kaine Introduces Bill to Help More Americans Get Skills Training for 21st Century Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the 21st Century Skills are Key to Individuals’ Life-Long Success (SKILLS) Act, legislation to help more Americans get the skills they need to find jobs in high-demand fields. The bill would make changes to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to expand access to job training programs to a broader set of workers who are underemployed or making low wages and who could benefit from skills training. It would also remove barriers for job seekers who lack transportation, child care, or the financial resources to cover materials and exam fees.

“Our economy and jobs are changing, and it’s important that we’re empowering Americans to get the skills they need to embrace opportunity in high-demand fields,” said Kaine. “During a time where many employers are struggling to find skilled workers to fill openings, I’m proud to introduce this legislation to make it easier for more workers to access job training programs and get the resources they need to find good-paying 21st century jobs.”

The 21st Century SKILLS Act would transform the existing Individual Training Account system to a tiered system of Skills Training Grants. Specifically, it would:

  • Expand access to grants beyond the traditionally narrow definition of dislocated workers, or workers who have been terminated or laid off, to a broader set of workers who are unemployed or making low wages.
  • Allow grants to be used to cover approved support services, including costs of transportation, child care, materials, or exam fees.
  • Establish a “Skills Training Grant Portal” website in the existing CareerOneStop system to connect users and providers to information about available resources, including program effectiveness metrics.
  • Require the Secretary of Education to conduct an awareness campaign to promote the website.
  • Set need-based amount levels of Skills Training Grants for training and support services so that jobseekers receive
    • $10,000 if the individual is a dislocated worker or is a low-income individual.
    • $8,000 if the individual’s household income is 100 to 150% of the federal poverty line.
    • $6,000 if the individual's household income is 150 to 200% of the poverty line.
  • Index the size of the grants to inflation.
  • Ensure funds are spent efficiently by requiring that federal funds contributed to a program not exceed the cost of a comparable program at a local community college.
  • Incentivize individuals to use the Skills Training Grant within three months of receiving it and prohibits eligibility for a new grant for another five years.
  • Give authority to governors to establish levels of performance that training providers must meet or exceed with respect to outcomes and skills gained by individuals in a given program.

Kaine has long supported technical education and training programs. In April, he reintroduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act, legislation to help Americans get the skills they need for in-demand infrastructure jobs. He introduced two pieces of legislation to help close the digital skills gap and expand access to digital skills training programs. Kaine also introduced the bipartisan JOBS Act to allow students to use Pell Grants for high-quality, short-term job training programs.

The bill is supported by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Third Way, and National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB).

Full text of the bill is available here.