New legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would support training and apprenticeships through partnerships between the federal government and small- and mid-sized businesses.
The “Promoting Apprenticeships through Regional Training Networks for Employers’ Required Skills Act,” or the “PARTNERS Act,” attacks a persistent a problem in America’s job market — more than half of the nation’s labor market consists of jobs that require a high school degree, but not a Bachelor’s degree. However, to qualify for these jobs, certifications, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training are often needed. Many small to medium-sized businesses lack the resources to provide this necessary training. The PARTNERS Act would give employers opportunities to work with organizations focusing on education and training, through industry partnerships. Through these partnerships, the Act would help fill education and training gaps in the workforce.
Funded by existing fees on H-1B visas, the PARTNERS Act creates grants of up to $500,000, over three years, to states to aid in-demand industry sectors.
The PARTNERS Act was introduced in the House by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (Ore.) as its lead Sponsor. Reps. Langevin (R.I.) and Thompson (Pa.) are original cosponsors of the bill, giving it bipartisan support. The bill has yet to be reintroduced in the Senate, but IEEE-USA expects that to happen later this month. A similar bill was introduced in 2019 by Senator Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and cosponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio). Freshman Senator John Hickenlooper (Colo.) is likely to join the list of supporters in 2021.
IEEE-USA supports industry partnerships with small- to medium-sized businesses as a unique way to forge new relationships. The PARTNERS Act provides new opportunities for workers to compete for jobs that don’t require a college degree in emerging fields like robotics and cybersecurity. If enacted, the Act will add needed flexibility to the American workforce and help workers fill shortages in some of America’s fastest-growing fields.
Kayla Henneberry is policy associate for IEEE-USA government relations.