Legislative Update: New Infrastructure Plan Supports CTE

This week the White House announced a new American Jobs Plan. Read below to learn more about what this proposal means for Career Technical Education (CTE), as well as an ask for stakeholder input from the Senate, new information for student loan borrowers and a recent Senate confirmation for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). 

Biden Releases New Infrastructure Plan That Calls Out CTE 

On Wednesday President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan, which would invest more than $2 trillion over ten years in infrastructure expansions and improvements. This includes $100 billion for workforce development, which is responsive to the amount that Advance CTE and 70 state and national organizations called for earlier this month in a letter to President Biden. The full amount is comprised of: 

  • $48 billion to build the capacity of existing workforce development and worker protection systems. This includes new career pathway programs in middle and high schools, which aligns with Advance CTE’s priority of elevating career pathways. The funding will also prioritize increasing access to computer science and high-quality CTE programs that connect underrepresented students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs and in-demand sectors through partnerships with institutions of higher education and employers.

    Apprenticeships are addressed in this section as well, with a commitment to creating one to two new million registered apprenticeships. Additionally, there is a focus on strengthening the pipeline for more people of color and women to access these programs through pre-apprenticeships. President Biden plans to support community college partnerships that increase capacity to deliver job training programs in response to in-demand skills. This partnership would tailor services to individual needs with new investments in Expanded Career Services and the Title II adult literacy program. Advance CTE has been calling for the Biden administration to invest in postsecondary partnerships that prepare for career pathways in high-growth, in-demand industry sectors (building off the success of the Trade Adjustment and Assistance Community College and Career Training- or TAACCCT- program), and recommended this be including in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). 
  • $40 billion for a new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training. This funding would allow workers to gain new skills and receive the career support services needed to pursue in-demand jobs. Individuals would receive high-quality training, as well as have access to evidence-based supports, including wraparound services, income supports, counseling and case management. 
  • $12 billion for workforce development opportunities in underserved communities. This funding would support evidence-based community violence prevention programs. President Biden is also calling on Congress to invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals and justice-involved youth, address long-term unemployment and underemployment through a subsidized jobs program and eliminate sub-minimum wage provisions. This section names the structural racism and economic inequities that persist for millions of individuals. Advance CTE has advocated for the administration to eliminate structures that embed systemic racism in education and workforce programs, and is glad to see this addressed throughout the plan.  

The proposal also includes an investment of $100 billion to expand high-speed broadband access to each individual. Advance CTE has been calling for an investment in internet access, and is pleased to see this addressed. Additionally, the proposal would invest $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, through $50 billion in direct grants and $50 billion in bonds.

The full fact sheet on the American Jobs Plan can be found here. Advance CTE’s statement on the American Jobs Plan can be found here. A second part to this plan will be shared in the coming weeks, and Congress will work to consider both pieces in legislation. 

Senate HELP Committee Seeks Input on Workforce Policies 

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) announced that they are working together to create bipartisan solutions to expand working training programs and the National Apprenticeship Act, as well as support innovation. The Senators requested input from all stakeholders on policy ideas to achieve those goals, for consideration in legislation that will be shared by early this summer. Comments from stakeholders must be submitted by April 9, 2021 to HELPWorkforceComments@help.senate.gov. In particular, Senators Murray and Burr are looking for proposals of: 

  • How to enhance or improve workforce training in direct relation to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and economic recovery, including ways to address workforce needs of the health care and public health sectors;
  • Reforms to programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
  • Ways to develop, modernize, and diversify the national apprenticeship system, including innovative approaches such as youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship; and
  • Strategies to encourage innovation to address worker and industry needs. 

ED Announces Updates for Student Loan Borrowers

This week the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced an expansion of the pause on federal student loan interest and collections to all defaulted loans in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. ED also announced relief for borrowers who received student loan discharges due to total and permanent disability. This update will ensure that no borrowers are at risk of having their loans reinstated due to failure to provide earnings information during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Senate Confirms New DOL Secretary 

The Senate confirmed Boston, Massachusetts Mayor Marty Walsh as the new Secretary of Labor in a 68-29 vote. Some of Secretary Walsh’s immediate tasks include expanding apprenticeship opportunities, expanding emergency unemployment programs due to pandemic impacts and implementing stricter workplace safety measures. Secretary Walsh shared his thoughts on meeting the moment with his new role and listed the following priorities: 

  • Bolstering career education and job training; 
  • Ensuring equal access to good jobs; 
  • Ensuring all workers have fair pay, health care, unemployment benefits, safe workplaces and a secure retirement; 
  • Ensuring workers have a seat at the table in shaping workplace conditions and policies; and
  • Increasing access to mental health and substance use treatment.  

Meredith Hills, Senior Associate for Federal Policy

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