WVIR, CJ PASCHALL
Two U.S. lawmakers from Virginia are teaming up to boost job training across the country. They say increasing access to career and technical education will help workers, businesses, and the economy as a whole.
Senator Tim Kaine and Representative Abigail Spanberger announced their support for the bill. They say even in a reeling economy, the demand for skilled workers is high and this bill would help fill that gap.
Senator Kaine says that this fight is a personal one for him. “I grew up as some of you know working in my dad’s iron working shop,” he said. “Later in life I served as the principal of the school that taught kids to be welders and carpenters in Honduras, and again saw the power of high quality career and technical education to transform lives.”
Jobs is the operative word, there. It’s both a literal jobs bill, and an acronym: Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students. Kaine says the bill will even the playing field between university educations and vocational training programs.
“It expands Pell Grant eligibility to also allow those grants to be used at high quality, career technical programs,” he explained.
Current rules require programs to be 13 or 14 weeks in length to qualify for coverage by Pell Grants. This would reduce the requirement to 8 weeks. The Virginia Community College System says there are roughly 50 programs already that would benefit from the bill.
“We help them afford the training that they need to meet their longer term career goals and find success in a changing economy and contribute continue contributing to our larger economy,” Spanberger said.
Both Kaine and Spanberger say the bill would supplement the work going on at the local level through schools like CATEC.
“Sometimes there are cost barriers in students way as they want to get training to be a welder or an emergency medical technician,” Kaine explained.
“The notion that students who would otherwise be eligible for Pell Grants wouldn’t be able to use that funding, that support to, to get the certification necessary to have a career as a CDL driver, you know, is a clear, no pun intended roadblock,” Spanberger said.
The bill has support in both the House and Senate. It also has broad bipartisan support in both areas: it is co-sponsored by 33 senators from both sides of the aisle, and six representatives.