Press Release

March 18, 2021
Cardin, Kaine, Portman, Levin, & Gonzalez Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Help More Americans Access Jobs Training & Get Back to Work

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and U.S. Representatives Andy Levin (D-Mich.-09) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio-16) in reintroducing the Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. This legislation would better support today’s students by making high-quality, shorter-term education and training programs eligible for federal Pell Grants. By expanding Pell Grant eligibility, the JOBS Act would help close the skills gap so workers can afford the job training and credentials that are in-demand as industries have shifted amid COVID. Ensuring students have access to a variety of postsecondary programs has become even more critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the end of 2020, more than 10 million Americans were unemployed, and 3.7 million of those individuals have suffered permanent job loss. These workers will need access to postsecondary education and training to reskill and reenter the workforce.

“As our workforce recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical no one is left behind,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to join my Senate and House colleagues in supporting the JOBS Act, to expand Pell Grant eligibility to cover skilled training programs, which will benefit students and young adults as they embark on their professional careers. This will allow low-income students to quickly finish high-quality job training programs and better support themselves and their families.”

“Especially amid the widespread job losses we’ve seen as a result of COVID-19, we have to update federal policies to better help Americans quickly enter or reenter the workforce,” said Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “The JOBS Act will be a critical tool in retraining workers and helping us build a more sustainable and equitable economy.”

“As we start to turn the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and work towards a full economic recovery, we must do a better job of ensuring that more Americans have the skills that match the jobs that are available today, and part of that is making sure that the federal government funding for education is flexible enough to pay for short-term training programs and credentials,” said Portman. “We’ve got a lot of great job training programs in Ohio, but too many students are finding that the programs they want to take are not covered by the Pell Grant because they are shorter than the 15 week course requirement. The JOBS Act expands Pell Grant eligibility to help students get the job training they need for careers that will give them economic security and help them join the workforce. With some Americans now looking to start new jobs and careers due to COVID-19-related job loss, these training programs are more important than ever. The JOBS Act is a common sense proposal with strong bipartisan support from congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to moving this bill forward and getting it passed into law.”

“Our economy is only as strong as the next generation of American workers, particularly those facing the consequences of our country’s massive income and wealth inequality,” said Levin. “The key to ensuring young Americans transition seamlessly into good-paying careers is to make sure that high quality education and job training is affordable and accessible. Pell Grants have helped millions of Americans earn a better education and find a better job. I could not be more excited to partner with colleagues in both parties and both chambers to advance this vital piece of legislation.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the fabric of our economy, causing many to consider new career and workforce opportunities,” Gonzalez said, “I am pleased to join my colleagues in re-introducing the JOBS Act today, which can help Americans as they consider new job opportunities and connect employers with dedicated employees to help bridge the skills gap in Ohio. It is imperative that Congress look for bipartisan solutions, like the JOBS Act, to get Americans back to work.”

“Central Virginia’s workforce training programs provide rich opportunities for area students and workers to gain essential skills in trades ranging from commercial truck driving to IT. But many students in our region’s short-term programs are ineligible to apply for Pell Grants, which could otherwise help them afford the training they need to meet their long-term career goals,” said Spanberger (D-VA-07), a cosponsor of the JOBS Act. “I’ve personally heard directly from community college instructors and administrators in our district about this issue and the need to expand Pell Grant eligibility. That’s why I’m proud to help reintroduce the bipartisan JOBS Act — and I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand opportunities for the next generation of Central Virginia workers and their families.”

“Families across our nation continue to struggle with unexpected job losses caused by the pandemic. The Kaine-Portman JOBS Act is a critical step in helping people get the skills they need to begin new careers in high-demand fields that offer family-sustaining wages. The community college training programs leading to industry-recognized credentials can be completed in weeks or months, not semesters or years, helping people get back to work faster. Credential completers in Virginia’s FastForward program see an $8,000 average increase in annual pay, getting hired to jobs that offer dependable schedules, employer-provided healthcare, and paid time off. The JOBS Act is a smart investment in America’s workforce,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges.

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 Virginia, the Virginia Community College System has identified approximately 50 programs that would benefit from the JOBS Act including in the fields of health care, manufacturing, energy, information technology, transportation, architecture/construction, maritime, and business management and administration.  

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-based credentials and ultimately employment in high-wage, high-skill industry sectors or careers
  • Ensuring 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
  • 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
    • 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

You can learn more about the JOBS Act here and read the bill text here.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich,), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), as well as U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.-07), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.-04), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.-03), John Katko (R-N.Y.-24), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del. At Large), and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa-01).

The JOBS Act is endorsed by the National Skills Coalition (NSC), the Association of Community Colleges and Trustees (ACCT), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Opportunity America, Jobs for the Future, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Advance CTE, Rebuilding America’s Middle Class (RAMC), Higher Learning Advocates, Business Roundtable, and the Virginia Community College System.