HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today led the reintroduction of a bipartisan, bicameral bill to help more Virginia students and workers afford high-quality workforce training and credentialing programs.
Spanberger’s legislation — the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act — would give individuals in Virginia and across the country the freedom to use their “529” savings plans to cover the costs of certain workforce training and credentialing programs. Additionally, the bill would allow students to use their 529 funds to pay for associated costs related to certification exams and maintenance of certification credentials. Right now, only colleges, vocational schools, universities, or other post-secondary institutions are considered an eligible 529 education savings plan expense.
Spanberger co-led the introduction of the legislation alongside U.S. Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI-06), Dean Phillips (D-MN-03), and Rob Wittman (R-VA-01). A companion bill in the U.S. Senate is led by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Braun (R-IN).
“Especially as we rebuild our economy in the wake of COVID-19, we need to make sure Central Virginia students and workers receive the training required to remain competitive and successful. 529 savings plans have long ensured that the next generation of Virginia workers can afford a higher education — but students are currently constrained from using these accounts to pay for necessary credentialing programs and exams,” said Spanberger. “Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation would give Virginia students and workers the ability to use their 529 plans to cover tuition, books, and testing costs related to these training programs. I’m proud to stand alongside Representatives Upton, Phillips, and Wittman in reintroducing this commonsense bill — and I’d like to thank Senators Klobuchar and Braun for leading this effort in the U.S. Senate. As we watch incredibly specialized trades emerge across our area, I’ll keep working to make these programs more affordable and accessible.”
“The bipartisan Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act aims to help students in southwest Michigan and across the country access opportunities to develop the necessary skills today to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce,” said Upton. “As the country looks toward a robust economic recovery, we need skilled talent. This legislation will help make that happen.”
“No matter your resources or your professional goals, every American deserves access to a quality education,” said Phillips. “By making workforce training more affordable and accessible, this bipartisan bill will help make that aspiration a reality. Especially after such a difficult year, this is exactly the kind of policy we need to get our economy back on track. I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues to get this important legislation to the President’s desk.”
“Even before the pandemic, businesses across Virginia faced a severe talent shortage due to a lack of career and technical training as well as STEM education. Now, as we rebuild our economy, cultivating a workforce with in-demand skill sets is more important than ever,” said Wittman. “One of my top priorities is ensuring our students cultivate the skill sets needed to thrive in today’s workforce. This bipartisan legislation creates opportunities for students to pursue post-secondary credentialing programs by allowing them to use their 529 savings to pay for tuition, exams, and supplies. I look forward to working with Congresswoman Spanberger and Representatives Upton and Phillips to advance this bill fostering the opportunities in career technical education deserved by Virginia’s students.”
The Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act is supported by the Associated Contractors of Virginia, Virginia 529, and the Professional Certification Coalition — which represents more than 100 organizations.
“Millions of families trust 529 plans with their hopes, dreams, and savings for college,” said Mary Morris, CEO, Virginia529. “But the needs of our country’s economy and workforce are changing, and a significant group of Americans whose post-high school plans include career and technical education and training programs may be unable to use this beneficial savings option to cover the costs of some high-quality, stackable certificate programs, apprenticeships and other postsecondary credentialing programs. Lifelong learning is a reality today, and we are grateful to Reps. Spanberger, Wittman, Upton and Phillips for sponsoring The Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act which will make 529 plans more flexible and effective as a financial planning tool for individuals pursuing their educational and career goals. We look forward to working with them on passage and implementation of this important bill which closes an education coverage gap in 529 plans today.”
“As the largest construction trade organization in the state, AGC of Virginia is proud to support The Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act. This important legislation will help American workers in the vital construction industry get the education they need to remain efficient, effective, and safe. As we continue our country’s economic recovery, a robust construction workforce is needed now more than ever,” said Brandon Robinson, CAE, CEO, Associated General Contractors of Virginia. “AGCVA applauds Congresswoman Spanberger and Congressman Upton for introducing The Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act. Their bipartisanship and exemplary legislation to provide essential education and training will no doubt support America and help our members survive and prosper in the challenging construction industry.”
“The Professional Certification Coalition – whose nearly 100 members include non-governmental professional certification organizations, professional societies, and service providers – appreciates Congresswoman Spanberger, Congressman Upton, Senator Klobuchar, Senator Braun and the other original cosponsors’ work to reintroduce the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act,” said Denise Roosendaal, CAE, Executive Director, Institute for Credentialing Excellence; and Mary Kate Cunningham, CAE, Senior Vice President for Public Policy, American Society for Association Executives — Co-Chair, Professional Certification Coalition. “This important legislation will provide an incentive for families to save money that can be used to pay for job training and for expenses associated with obtaining or maintaining a valuable professional certification or other postsecondary credential. These credentials are highly valuable for individuals seeking to advance in their careers and communicate to the public that certified professionals have met established standards for knowledge, skill, and competency in their fields. We are proud to support this legislation and look forward to working with Congress to ensure its enactment into law.”
According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill jobs — which require more than a high school education but not a bachelor’s degree — comprise the largest component of America’s labor market. However, key industries cannot find adequately-trained workers to fill these jobs.
Specifically, the bipartisan Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act would amend current law to allow workers and students to use their 529 plans to pay for training or credentialing programs recognized by a state government or the federal government — or widely recognized as providing reputable credentials in the occupation. Simultaneously, the bill would maintain the current allowable uses for 529 plan expenses — such as colleges and vocational schools.
Click here to read the full bill text.