US House passes bill to make Pell grants available for retraining programs

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed a sprawling omnibus bill Feb. 4 with amendments that would make Pell grants available for rapid retraining programs and provide “workers and students accurate, timely, high-quality information to help make decisions about which programs are best for them,” according to a statement from the National Skills Coalition.
  • The America Competes Act is the House’s answer to the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act passed by the Senate last year. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement and in interviews with national outlets that the framework presented by both bills has “broad bipartisan support.” 
  • NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen said in a statement, “The pandemic has transformed entire industries overnight, creating high demand for rapid retraining. Unfortunately, our nation’s higher education policies — developed over 50 years ago — aren’t set up to respond to these opportunities.”

Dive Insight:

The jobs crisis has been top of mind for employer-facing interest groups, particularly those with a voice at the federal level.

Not long before the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act passed the Senate in June, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced an initiative pushing for federal and state-level policy changes regarding access to work, including visa programs, job training and child care. A Chamber report that debuted around the same time also noted that half as many workers are available per job opening as there have been on average for the past 20 years — 1.4 workers per opening, down from 2.8 workers. That difficulty has expanded into 2022, local Chambers said in a recent survey.

The pandemic also put the spotlight on worker retraining, especially after mass layoffs. For example, the Skillup Coalition, one in a number of similar organizations that emerged after the first lockdown, focuses on providing workers financial support for job training as well as access to programs with career opportunities to bring about economic mobility for displaced workers.

In general, workers seem to highly value on-the-job training. A survey from the Milken Institute and Infosys released in March 2021 showed that on-the-job training held more importance to respondent employees and managers than licenses and certifications.

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