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Landrieu Introduces JOBS Act to Expand Pell Grant Opportunities for Workforce Training

February 13, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., this week introduced the Jumpstart Our Businesses by supporting Students (JOBS) Act to allow individuals to use Pell Grants to pay for short-term job training programs that lead to industry-based certification. Expanding Pell Grant eligibility for short-term job-training is key to closing the skills gap that has become a barrier to developing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of Louisiana’s growing economy and job market.  

In August 2013, Sen. Landrieu toured Louisiana to hear from labor, industry and education leaders about how we can better equip our workforce and provide increased educational opportunities to future workers.  The JOBS Act is a direct product from those meetings.

“Louisiana is in the midst of an energy revolution and manufacturing renaissance, from expansions at Sempra in Southwest Louisiana to the relocation of two Methanex plants in Ascension Parish,” Sen Landrieu said.  “These projects require skills that people can earn at one of our job training programs throughout the state.  While many of the jobs created by these projects are temporary, the skills they learn are permanent and have a real impact on people’s quality of life.  

“The JOBS Act makes a smart update to expand the eligible uses of Pell Grant funding for short-term job training so we can build a strong and skilled workforce to fill the thousands of jobs that are being created in Louisiana and are currently empty," Sen. Landrieu continued. "I look forward to continuing to work with local business, education and labor leaders to close the skills gap in Louisiana and continue building an economy and workforce for tomorrow."

“Every student that wants to get the training he or she needs to succeed in today’s workforce should have that opportunity,” said Dr. Joe May, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.  “The JOBS Act proposed by Sen. Landrieu makes the necessary reforms to Pell Grant funding that will expand opportunities to more students.  We have jobs waiting right here in Louisiana and across the nation, but because of the financial burdens associated with job training programs, many students are missing out on these middle class wage, high-skilled jobs.  We can remove this barrier to job creation by passing the JOBS Act and help meet Louisiana’s workforce needs while reducing the endless cycle of poverty facing many of our young adults.”

"Rigorous, short-term postsecondary training programs have a proven track record of efficiently equipping students with the skills they need for today's high-wage, high-skill, in-demand careers and for further education,” said LeAnn Wilson, Executive Director of the Association for Career and Technical Education. ACTE applauds Senator Landrieu's efforts to help make postsecondary skills education more accessible to all students through the JOBS Act. This legislation will help to close the skills gap and connect students with rewarding careers, which is critical to supporting the continued growth of our economy."

“Louisiana has a growing number of available jobs that need to be filled by a skilled workforce, but many times the access to the training is difficult for perspective employees,” said Richard B. Smith, Vice President of Workforce Development for The Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.  “This critical legislation opens up opportunities for employees who, often times, have difficulty finding work and will give them skills that last for a lifetime.  Making these early investments in their job training can have a real impact on their quality of life, and fills Louisiana’s workforce with skilled workers from right here in our state.  A broad coalition of business and industry groups support this bill, and we appreciate Sen. Landrieu’s leadership in tackling this very serious issue.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 90 percent of today’s jobs require post-secondary education.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 3.7 million job are sitting vacant because of the lack of qualified workers. 

Currently, Pell Grants can be used by low-income students in undergraduate or post baccalaureate programs at approximately 5,400 institutions across the country and recipients can use the funds at two-year or four-year colleges, in addition to other vocational or technical programs.  However, only job training programs that consist of 300 clock hours and last 16 weeks are eligible for Pell Grants.  Louisiana is home to at least 33 short-term job training programs that do not meet the eligibility requirements for funding, even though these programs train students for industry professions, many of which will be in need of skilled workers in the next three to six years.

The Center for Law and Social Policy estimates that three out of five students who begin an associate’s degree or certificate programs drop out because of the financial burdens.  

In Louisiana, the workforce is expected to grow, on average, by 29,800 new jobs per year through 2020, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.  Immediately, the state needs 35,000 new industrial construction jobs through 2016.  More than 11,000 jobs are immediately needed in heavy and civil engineering in Louisiana with culinary and food services industry looking to create 9,000 jobs.  Each of these areas requires additional job training that could be completed at a short-term job training program currently ineligible for Pell Grant funding. 

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