Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16) introduced a bill Wednesday that would expand access to financial aid for technical education programs, while Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.
According to a press release from Gonzalez’s office, the Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act would expand Pell Grant eligibility to short-term technical education training programs.
“In Ohio alone, over 152,000 jobs remain available—80,700 of which are paying over $50,000. With employers clamoring for more qualified employees, these jobs are untapped opportunities for our workers, our students and our children,” Gonzalez said. “The JOBS Act is critical to providing Northeast Ohioans who don’t want to pursue a traditional degree an opportunity to advance their careers and achieve a better future.”
Dr. Para Jones, president of Stark State College, said that without access to Pell Grant dollars to help students interested in technical programs, the “number of students in the talent pipeline is dwindling, while employer demand is growing.”
“As a community college president, I meet with businesses and industry leaders regularly to ensure our students are prepared for the workforce needs of today and tomorrow, and I believe this legislation directly aligns with the needs of employers and students,” she said.
The bill has bipartisan support and is cosponsored by three Democrats in the House, and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) in the Senate. Kaine and Portman have introduced similar iterations of the bill over the past few years. In fact, the two senators founded the Career and Technical Education Caucus, which now has 27 senators as members.
“Why? Because members are hearing back home about this and this has been good to raise awareness for career and technical education,” Portman said during a recent speech on the Senate floor.
“It’s a really common-sense solution to help solve this skills gap problem we’re talking about because it says very simply with regard to Pell Grants, which is for low-income students, instead of just making them available for community colleges or four-year colleges, universities or for longer-term courses, why not allow Pell Grants to be used for shorter-term training programs. That is what is needed right now,” Portman said.
He went on to say that the current system for Pell Grant eligibility “is not working with regard to the modern economy,” and isn’t fair to students who want to complete a short-term training program.
“If we make career and technical education a priority, if we enact the JOBS Act I just discussed today, we will helps tens of thousands of our young people be able to achieve their dreams, have better opportunities and just as important we’re going to be able to help our economy,” Portman concluded. “[It will] help to ensure that we do have, here in the United States, a growing economy where we have better tax policy, better regulation policy but also the workers to ensure companies don’t pick up and move because they don’t have the workforce here.”
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