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Blunt Touts Key Investments in Closing the Skills Gap, Strengthening U.S. Workforce

December 16, 2019

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), today announced that the fiscal year 2020 Senate Labor/HHS appropriations bill includes several investments in key workforce development programs. The bill was filed today and is expected to be considered by the Senate later this week.

“There are over a million more job openings than people looking for work,” said Blunt. “I hear from employers all the time who are struggling to find candidates with the right education, skills, and training to fill open jobs. By strengthening workforce development programs, including the Apprenticeship program and Career and Technical Education, we’ll help Americans get the skills they need to take advantage of the opportunities that come with a growing economy. This year, we’ve also started a new initiative to ensure that high-school age kids have the ability to pursue a full-range of post-secondary options – whether it’s attending a four-year university, a community college, or entering an apprenticeship program – to help them not just get a job, but build a career.”

Following Are Some of the Key Workforce Development Priorities Included in the Labor/HHS Bill:

Career Pathways Initiative: Too many students leave high school without a clear understanding of the full range of post-secondary options, from apprenticeship programs to advanced degrees, that can lead to good, high-paying careers. Creating these connections for students beginning when they are high school-age can be critical to improving educational and employment outcomes. The bill provides $20 million to establish new initiatives at the Departments of Labor and Education:

o $10 million for a new initiative at the Department of Education to help school districts, institutions of higher education, and area CTE schools implement a wide-range of activities, such as aligning curriculums with academic standards and occupational licensing and credentialing, and providing direct services to students, with the goal of improving pathways for students beginning in high school that can lead to the full-range of post-secondary college and career options.

o $10 million for a new youth career pathways demonstration program at the Department of Labor to improve workforce readiness, employment and training opportunities, and provide early exposure to multiple career pathways.

Apprenticeship Program: The bill includes a $15 million increase for the Apprenticeship program, bringing the overall funding level to $175 million. That marks an $85 million increase since Congress began funding this program in FY2016. Blunt has advocated for increased apprenticeship opportunities to close the skills gap.

Veterans Employment and Training (VETS): The bill provides $311.3 million, an $11.3 million increase, for VETS. VETS provides intensive employment services to veterans and eligible spouses, transitioning service members, and disabled veterans. This increased funding will support veterans in the transition assistance program as they move into the civilian workforce, and allow the Department of Labor to implement reforms required by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and assist military spouses in addressing occupational and credentialing barriers. 

HIRE Vets Medallion Program: The bill continues to provide resources to carry out the HIRE Vets Act, a bill authored by Sen. Blunt which established a tiered recognition program within the Department of Labor to award employers based on their contributions to veteran employment. In November, the department announced that seven Missouri employers received HIRE Vets Medallion Program Awards.

Rural Workforce Training Initiative: The bill provides $30 million in continued funding for the dislocated worker training initiative, Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities, to provide reemployment and training assistance to dislocated workers in rural areas of the country hit hardest by the recession and recovering more slowly. Funding is devoted to training those who have lost their jobs in the Appalachian and Delta regions to ensure they can adapt existing skills and learn new skills demanded by other growing industries, and return to work as soon as possible.

Strengthening Community Colleges Initiative: The bill provides $40 million for a new initiative to better align workforce development needs for in-demand industries with post-secondary education.

Workforce Training Grants: The bill includes $2.8 billion in grants to states, an increase of $30 million. These funds are distributed by formula to states and localities to meet each state’s unique workforce training and development needs. Missouri received $38.2 million in training and employment services grants in 2019.

Youth Workforce Training: The bill increases funding for several other programs to provide at-risk youth with the opportunity to gain educational and occupations skills:

o Youth Grants to States: $913 million, an increase of $9.7 million;

o YouthBuild: $94.5 million, an increase of $5 million.  Missouri has four current YouthBuild grantees located in Columbia, St. Joseph, and St. Louis; and

o Job Corps: $1.7 billion, an increase of $25 million.  Missouri has three Job Corps centers located in Excelsior Springs, Puxico, and St. Louis.

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