WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet joined U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mike Braun in reintroducing 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.
“There are many pathways to good-paying jobs that don’t go through a four-year college. Whether it’s apprenticeships or on-the-job training, we need to support these students with Pell Grants,” said Hickenlooper.
“Apprenticeship programs offer an affordable, hands-on way for students to earn a salary while they gain experience and get started in their careers,” said Bennet. “Especially now, as Colorado has two job openings for every person looking for a job, we need to focus on giving Coloradans the tools to succeed in a variety of different careers. This legislation will make apprenticeship programs accessible for more Coloradans, helping them earn a living wage while growing our workforce and placing more Americans on a pathway to financial stability.”
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.
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
In addition to Bennet, Hickenlooper, Kaine, and Braun, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, John Barrasso, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Shelley Moore Capito, Ben Cardin, Susan Collins, Catherine Cortez Masto, Kevin Cramer, Steve Daines, Tammy Duckworth, Joni Ernst, Dianne Feinstein, Kirsten Gillibrand, Maggie Hassan, John Hoeven, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mark Kelly, Angus King, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Ray Luján, Roger Marshall, Jon Ossoff, Marco Rubio, Jeanne Shaheen, Kyrsten Sinema, Tina Smith, Thom Tillis, Tommy Tuberville, Chris Van Hollen, Mark R. Warner, Roger Wicker, and Ron Wyden.
The JOBS Act is supported by Advance CTE, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association for Career and Technical Education, the Association of Community College Trustees, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Business Roundtable, Cengage Group, the Center for Law and Social Policy, Higher Learning Advocates, IBM Corporation, Jobs for the Future, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association of Workforce Boards, the National Skills Coalition, the Progressive Policy Institute, Rebuilding America’s Middle Class, and the Virginia Community College System.