Kaine, Young work in Senate on community college, career training


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U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Todd Young are working together on a bill to launch a community college and career training grant program that would provide funding to states and community colleges to address the evolving demands of the labor market.

The Assisting Community Colleges in Educating Skilled Students (ACCESS) to Careers Act would launch a community college and career training grant program that would provide funding to states and community colleges to address the evolving demands of the labor market.

The bill aims to boost student success and career readiness by increasing work-based learning opportunities, ensuring students have access to support services such as career navigators and counselors, and creating career pathways to meet the changing skill demands of the U.S. economy.

“It’s important that states make strategic investments to set students up for success in the constantly-evolving labor market, and the best training for high-wage, high-skill, or in-demand jobs is often offered by community colleges. This bipartisan bill would invest in students and help prepare them for careers that build the backbone of our economy,” Kaine, D-Va., said.

“It’s no secret that as our economy changes, so do the demands of our workforce. New evidence-based innovations in postsecondary education have been discovered to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Young, R-Ind. “This bill would harness those successful models and provide resources to states and community colleges – giving students the tools to succeed in high-demand careers.”

The rapidly changing U.S. economy demands agile education and workforce development systems that can keep up with changing skill demands. This bill builds on lessons learned in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program (TAACCCT), a program that increased the ability of community colleges to address the challenges of today’s labor market.

It authorizes the Secretary of Education to provide:

  • Grants to States to develop innovative models that support student success and workforce preparedness. The bill supports partnerships with local community colleges with employers and workforce entities to create pathways to in-demand industries.
  • Grants to Community Colleges and Consortia of Community Colleges to carry out program activities, increase the number of students who attain postsecondary credentials in high-skill, high-wage, or in-demand industry sectors, and assist colleges to develop and improve strategies to support student success.

“Education must take on a collaborative effort and demand competency-based learning opportunities that support positive progress and learning through rich work experiences. We know that by aligning academic programs and workforce credentials with the needs of business and industry, we are able to provide learning-centered education, improve access for more students, and increase the number of students completing an associate degree or industry credential. Therefore, it is critical for the students we serve that we build upon proven models and make systemic changes.  Sen. Kaine and Sen. Young’s legislation is an important step in making that happen,” said Dr. Jacqueline Gill Powell, President, Danville Community College.

“Community college students often work two or three jobs while attending classes in order to make ends meet. Often, critical life stressors get in the way of their ability to continue their education and pursue training for higher paying jobs. Unanticipated child care, transportation, and housing costs are examples of non-academic factors that can force otherwise successful students from completing certificates, degrees and workforce training programs which could help them earn a higher wage and greater fiscal stability. More importantly, the training programs offered by community colleges produce graduates who address the critical workforce shortages that most employers are desperately seeking. Sen. Kaine and Sen. Young’s legislation would help these hard working students persist in getting the high skills training most in demand in the economy,” said Dr. John Downey, President, Blue Ridge Community College.

“The mission of America’s community colleges and the role of career training in a strong economy are inseparably intertwined. As we support the whole student, we support the whole community, for the needs beyond the academic classroom create barriers of delayed success, lack of access, and forfeited dreams. We sincerely appreciate Sen. Kaine and Sen. Young’s support of our students, our community’s future, and our life’s work and applaud this grant program bill,” said Dr. Angeline Godwin, President, Patrick Henry Community College.

“Grants like those in the ACCESS to Careers Act provide the opportunity to build capacity within community colleges, which is critical in ensuring the availability of training resources and equipment to meet labor market demands in high-demand/high-wage careers. Through such grants community colleges including Ivy Tech have enriched our training capabilities in multiple industry-aligned areas including advanced manufacturing, information technology, and bioscience. Additional opportunities will enable community colleges to be more nimble and meet industry standards in rapidly changing technological areas,” said President Sue Ellspermann, Ivy Tech Community College.

The legislation is endorsed by Jobs for the Future (JFF), National Skills Coalition (NSC), Higher Learning Advocates, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).

You can access the text of the legislation here.

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