Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced legislation to invest in high quality workforce training so that New Yorkers have the necessary skills for in demand jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. New York State lost more than 1 million jobs between January 2020-January 2021 and the state’s annual average unemployment rate grew to 10.0% last year from 3.8% in 2019. Because of the changing pandemic economy, access to affordable and high-quality job training will be critical to help reemploy New Yorkers. The Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act expands federal resources for Pell Grants so that students pursuing high-quality, shorter-term education and training programs are eligible. Enacting the legislation would help close the skills gap so workers can afford the job training and credentials that are in-demand as industries shift during the economic recovery.
“Making a full economic recovery in New York means we have to equip every worker with the skills needed for the jobs available today and for the future,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The JOBS Act would help rebuild a strong, dynamic workforce by expanding resources to train workers for industries at the center of our recovery from the pandemic: health care, manufacturing and construction. Providing the educational resources for workers to launch new careers will not only benefit the economy, but it will expand opportunities for underrepresented workers of color. I’m proud to announce this bipartisan legislation that will meet the needs of New York’s workforce and support a robust, more equitable economy.”
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 would 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 bill, eligible programs would offer training that meets the needs of the local or regional workforce. In New York, many postsecondary education and training programs from Per Scholas in the Bronx to programs at our SUNY EOCs, community colleges and BOCES across the state would benefit from the JOBS Act.
Specifically, the JOBS Act would:
- Expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in rigorous and high-quality short-term skills and job training programs that lead to industry-based credentials and ultimately employment in high-wage, high-skill industry sectors or careers
- Ensure 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
- Define 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
- Creating an inter-agency data-sharing agreement between the Department of Labor and Department of Education to share WIOA performance outcomes metrics such as median earnings and completion
The bipartisan, bicameral legislation was led in the Senate by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH).
Full text of the bill can be found here.