Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do you know if your legislators support the JOBS Act?

Communication with our legislators is paramount when dealing with our workforce and education.  Please read this recent support letter for the JOBS Act to our federal legislators US Senator Pat Toomey and US Senator Bob Casey.  I encourage you to contact our legislators if you support the JOBS Act.

I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor the “Jumpstart our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act,” which was recently introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). This important legislation would strengthen our economy by extending eligibility for federal Pell Grants to short-term job training programs at community colleges and other institutions of higher education.

Postsecondary education and training are critical in today’s labor market: more than 80 percent of today’s jobs require at least some form of education and training beyond the high school level. And U.S. workers and jobseekers are responding to these skill demands: more than half of all undergraduate awards in 2012 were at the associate’s degree or below, and nearly one million of these individuals received postsecondary certificates, which offer working learners a flexible and cost-effective way to obtain career-advancing skills in health care, manufacturing, and other high demand occupation.

These shorter-term educational investments pay off. The average postsecondary certificate holder has 20 percent higher lifetime earnings than individuals with only a high school diploma, and research indicates that in some occupations short-term certificates can actually lead to better employment and earnings outcomes than an associate’s degree in the same field.

Unfortunately, we are not keeping up with labor market demand, with the United States facing a shortfall of as many as 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates by the year 2018.  

Our current federal higher education policy is part of the problem. Pell Grants – the primary form of federal tuition assistance for low-income and working students – can’t be used to support many of the short-term occupational training programs at community colleges and other institutions that provide the skills and credentials employers need.

The JOBS Act would address this challenge by authorizing Pell Grants for job training programs of at least 150 clock hours over not less than eight weeks of instruction, compared to the current requirements of at least 600 hours over not less than 15 weeks. Institutions would be required to ensure that programs were aligned with the skill demands of employers in their state, and that programs resulted in a recognized postsecondary credential. The bill would also encourage colleges and other eligible entities to connect short-term credentials to career pathways and to ensure that individuals with low literacy and numeracy skills have the supports they need to succeed.
To sign on as a co-sponsor of the JOBS Act, please have a member of your staff contact Karishma Merchant in Senator Kaine’s office at karishma_merchant@kaine.senate.gov, or Allen Ernst in Senator Portman’s office at allen_ernst@portman.senate.gov

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

Please feel free to contact me with any questions. Nancy Dischinat ndischinat@lvwib.org or 610-841-1122.

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