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Spanberger, Kaine leading congressional effort to expand access to workforce training

Abigail Spanberger
Abigail Spanberger

Seventh District Democrat Abigail Spanberger has helped reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would expand Pell Grant eligibility for qualifying short-term programs and give more students access to workforce training courses.

The Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act would extend Pell Grant eligibility to qualified career education programs that are between 150 and 600 hours and at least eight weeks in length.

This provision would create more paths for candidates to afford an education that qualifies them to fill job openings in areas where employers have typically found difficulty in filling open positions.

Spanberger co-led the introduction of this bipartisan bill alongside Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Andy Levin (D-MI-09), Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), John Katko (R-NY-24), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL), and Ashley Hinson (R-IA-01).

A companion bill is led in the Senate by Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH).

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 health care, manufacturing, energy, information technology, transportation, architecture/construction, maritime, and business management and administration.

“Central Virginia’s workforce training programs provide rich opportunities for area students and workers to gain essential skills in trades ranging from commercial truck driving to IT. But many students in our region’s short-term programs are ineligible to apply for Pell Grants, which could otherwise help them afford the training they need to meet their long-term career goals,” Spanberger said.

“I’ve personally heard directly from community college instructors and administrators in our district about this issue and the need to expand Pell Grant eligibility. That’s why I’m proud to help reintroduce the bipartisan JOBS Act — and I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand opportunities for the next generation of Central Virginia workers and their families.”

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 high-quality job training programs that are at least eight weeks in length and lead to industry-recognized credentials and certificates.

The JOBS Act is endorsed by the Virginia Community College System, as well as the National Skills Coalition (NSC), the Association of Community Colleges and Trustees (ACCT), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), IBM, Opportunity America, Jobs for the Future, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Advance CTE, Business Roundtable Table (BRT), and Young Invincibles.

augusta free press
augusta free press