Spanberger Urges U.S. House Leadership to Hold Vote on Her Bipartisan Bill to Help Address Workforce Shortages & Fill New, Good-Paying Jobs

As the United States Increases Investment in the Domestic Production of Semiconductors Following the Signing of the CHIPS and Science Act, the Congresswoman’s JOBS Act Would Create a More Qualified, Skilled Workforce to Fill New Jobs

HENRICO, V.A. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today urged U.S. House leadership to bring her bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote. Her call comes amid increased investments in the U.S. semiconductor industry as a result of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act becoming law.

The bipartisan JOBS Act would expand Pell Grant eligibility to qualified technical education programs that are between 150 and 600 hours and at least eight weeks in length. This bipartisan legislation would create more opportunities for skilled professionals to fill vital, well-paying jobs that employers — like semiconductor manufacturers — typically find difficulty filling under current conditions.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Spanberger called on the leaders to bring the JOBS Act to the floor for a vote. The Congresswoman also highlighted the ability of this legislation to support additional, high-quality technical education programs to ensure a robust and qualified workforce — and to help address workforce shortages and fill new jobs, particularly in manufacturing.

“There is broad consensus that the United States must invest in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research in order to be competitive in the global economy, particularly with nations like China,” wrote Spanberger. “However, as the CHIPS and Science Act is implemented, leaders from the public and private sectors are sounding the alarm that workforce shortages could prevent these investments from realizing their full potential impact. While some solutions to these workforce shortages will take years to implement, we must aggressively pursue options that address current shortages related to semiconductor manufacturing in the short-term.”

Spanberger continued, “Currently, the U.S. is at risk of losing $454 billion of manufacturing GDP in 2028 alone due to a skills shortage. While educational institutions across the country are creating and expanding short-term training programs that can prepare workers for jobs in manufacturing, including semiconductor manufacturing, students are unable to use Pell Grant funding to pay for some programs that do not meet program duration requirements.”

Under the bipartisan 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 manufacturing, healthcare, energy, information technology, and more.

“The JOBS Act has never been more necessary in growing Virginia communities served by Germanna Community College,” said Dr. Janet Gullickson, President, Germanna Community College. “More and more, students want to get to work along with attending college and this life-changing legislation provides for both. With stackable credentials, a worker/student can get a high-value job while pursuing future career and educational opportunities. It’s the perfect mix for workforce development success and I thank Rep. Spanberger for pushing for more support.”

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

As the United States ramps up critical investments in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research, we must ensure there is a robust and qualified workforce to fill the resulting new jobs and maximize the impact of these investments. We urge you to bring the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students Act of 2021 (JOBS Act) for a vote as soon as possible in order to expand Pell Grant eligibility to include high-quality, short-term technical programs and help address workforce shortages, particularly in manufacturing.

While the United States still largely leads the world in designing semiconductors, our capacity to produce them has declined significantly. In 1990, the United States produced 37 percent of the world’s semiconductors, but now only produces 12 percent. This leaves our semiconductor supply chains vulnerable to disruptions in other countries. Semiconductors are critical inputs in goods such as cars, healthcare equipment, appliances, and more, and their production is critical to U.S. competitiveness, economic growth, and national security. There is broad consensus that the United States must invest in domestic semiconductor manufacturing and research in order to be competitive in the global economy, particularly with nations like China.

However, as the CHIPS and Science Act is implemented, leaders from the public and private sectors are sounding the alarm that workforce shortages could prevent these investments from realizing their full potential impact. While some solutions to these workforce shortages will take years to implement, we must aggressively pursue options that address current shortages related to semiconductor manufacturing in the short-term. For example, only about 15 percent of semiconductor factory workers must have doctorates or master’s degrees in fields such as material and electrical engineering, computer science, physics, and chemistry, while the majority of roles in a semiconductor factory are at the technician level and do not require several years of education.

One way to improve the pipeline of skilled workers would be to pass the bipartisan JOBS Act which would improve Americans’ ability to access high-quality, short-term technical programs, especially in manufacturing. Currently, the U.S. is at risk of losing $454 billion of manufacturing GDP in 2028 alone due to a skills shortage. While educational institutions across the country are creating and expanding short-term training programs that can prepare workers for jobs in manufacturing, including semiconductor manufacturing, students are unable to use Pell Grant funding to pay for some programs that do not meet program duration requirements.

The JOBS Act has already garnered bipartisan support in the House of Representatives through its passage as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act in February 2022 and has 50 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate. A robust, skilled workforce is critical to our national security and competitiveness with other nations and the JOBS Act is a bipartisan step forward toward strengthening our workforce.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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. Specifically, the JOBS Act would amend the Higher Education Act to expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in shorter-term, high-quality job training programs that award industry-recognized credentials and certificates.

Spanberger helped introduce the JOBS Act in May 2021. Companion legislation is led in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH).

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