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Cantwell, Collins, Gillibrand, Kaine Reintroduce Apprenticeship Bill to Train the Next Generation of American Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) announced an updated Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act of 2015 to help the next generation of American workers develop the skills they need to secure well-paying, high-demand jobs. The legislation also aids the United States’ ongoing economic recovery by ensuring we retain our competitiveness and the most innovative workforce in the world.  

Apprenticeship programs benefit both the company and employee, and also often lead to higher-paying jobs that help sustain the economy. The bipartisan legislation would create a $5,000 tax credit for employers to use apprenticeship programs to train workers in high-demand fields. This legislation would allow workers to gain career training in health care, manufacturing and technology industries. It would also allow veterans to receive credit for their previous military training and experience.

“When American workers have the training and skills they need, the United States is better equipped to tackle the competitive challenges and opportunities of the 21st century global economy. The Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act creates federal incentives for businesses to invest in US workers by creating or expanding their apprenticeship programs nationally.  These programs are a critical component to closing the skills gap in high growth industries such as healthcare, aerospace and information technology. By training a skilled workforce, we unlock significant potential and create an opportunity for workers to earn good wages,” said Washington Senator Maria Cantwell.

“Few issues are as important to the American people as the availability of good jobs in our communities,” Maine Senator Susan Collins said.  “I have met with numerous business owners throughout Maine who have jobs available but cannot find qualified and trained workers to fill these vacant positions.  By helping to better connect the needs of our nation's employers with the training of our workforce, this bill will play an important role in the promotion of hiring and the creation of new good-paying American jobs.”

“Apprenticeship programs are critical to growing our nation’s talented workforce,” said Senator Kaine, co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus. “Programs like The Apprentice School in Newport News demonstrate how apprenticeships prepare workers for high-paying, high-skilled career fields by providing them with technical training, often at a much lower cost than traditional post-secondary education programs. I’m proud to introduce this bill to encourage businesses to create apprenticeship programs, which benefit our workforce and our economy.”

According to a study by the Department of Labor, workers who finish apprenticeships earn an average of $240,000 more in wages over a lifetime than job seekers with similar work experience. Not only do apprenticeships provide increased wages, they are beneficial to both employers and older employees ready to retire by letting them to phase into retirement, guaranteeing a cost-effective transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. The seamless transfer of skills is particularly essential within trade-related industries, where apprenticeships allow companies to retain expertise while developing the skills of the younger workers.

In Washington state, where aerospace is a key economic driver, more than 20,000 new workers will be needed over the next decade. In addition, nearly 30 percent of current aviation workers will be eligible for retirement by 2016.There are 239 registered apprenticeship programs in Washington state that provide training in more than 350 fields ranging from assembly machinists to wind turbine technicians, according to state Department of Labor and Industries data.

Specifically, the legislation would:

· Create a $5,000 tax credit for up to three years for companies that hire and pay employees enrolled in a federal- or state-registered apprentice program. Additionally, employers participating in a multi-employer apprenticeship program, the credit rate would be $3 per hour each individual works.

· Allow senior employees near retirement to draw from pensions early if they’re involved in mentoring or training new employees. Workers must be at least 55, and have reduced work hours to spend at least 20 percent of their time training or educating employees or students.

· Help veterans get into skilled jobs that match their military experience sooner by allowing credit in apprenticeship requirements for previous military training.

A skilled workforce is a critical component of a productive economy, and the need for training continues to grow. In the 2013 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index study by Deloitte, executives ranked talent-driven innovation as the top driver of a country’s ability to compete globally. However, today U.S. companies are investing just half the amount in training as a share of GDP compared to a decade ago, according to a study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Much of this decline comes from cost pressures and the movement of workers between companies. According to a 2011 survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, the majority of industrial companies reported a moderate to severe shortage of qualified workers.

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