With the support of two Republican cosponsors, Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., is reintroducing her 2018 proposal to provide federal grant dollars for community-based career path partnerships that support unemployed individuals who are pursuing a college degree or technical certification.
Joined by Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., Hassan is scheduled today to reintroduce the Gateway to Careers Act, which aims to address a country-wide shortage of skilled employees across multiple industries, a phenomenon that’s been buoyed by the nation’s unemployment rate.
If enacted, the bill would provide grant funding to support partnerships between community or technical colleges and “workforce development partners” like industry associations, state workforce development boards and other community-based organizations.
In an interview with the Union Leader prior to the formal release of the bill’s reintroduction, Hassan outlined that the grant-supported partnerships would target unemployed or under-employed individuals by “strengthening job training” and addressing common barriers to degree completion such as housing, child care, transportation, health insurance coverage and substance misuse treatment.
“These could be students matriculating from high school, or these could be people who have been in the workforce for a while and then dropped out,” said Hassan of the individuals her bill hopes to address.
“As they approach a program like Manchester Community College’s welding program, they’re going to need support to put together the financing package for the actual tuition. But these grants would then allow that program to provide supports and advice, and have staff who could really help that student chart their course through the program and then get access to the other supports they need to help them break down these barriers that keep them from being able to go to school regularly or enter the workforce.”
Hassan said the funding mechanism for the grants will be developed as the bill moves through the legislative process, but said she hopes to include the legislation in the re-authorization process for the Higher Education Act.
She said the bill will save money in the long run by “moving people off of public assistance and into stable careers so that they can contribute to our economic growth.”
The previous version of the bill, which was introduced in February 2018, featured no Republican co-sponsors and died in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The new version of the bill includes an increased emphasis on additional evaluation of outcomes, including the requirement that a portion of the grant funding go toward an evaluation of the program. It also requires grant recipients to report annually to the Secretary of Education, who will report annually to Congress on how the grant funds are being spent.
Hassan said there are no substantive changes from last year’s version of the bill, and expressed her opinion that bipartisan support would be an asset in getting the revived bill passed this time around.
In a statement, Young said he sees the bill as part and parcel to his Fair Shot Agenda, which focuses on creating a more level playing field by addressing barriers to economic opportunity, safety, health and efficient government.
“The main focus of my Fair Shot Agenda is to ensure every Hoosier has a fair shot at success,” said Young. “The Gateway to Careers Act would help do just that by removing barriers that keep individuals from excelling in our ever-changing workforce.”
In the lead-up to the bill’s reintroduction, Hassan has spent the last few weeks traveling across the Granite State to discuss workforce development with various stakeholders and to tease upcoming legislation.
The junior senator’s roadshow included stops at White Mountains Community College, GE Aviation in Hooksett and Safran Aerospace in Rochester, which has formed a partnership with Spaulding High School and Great Bay Community College aimed at helping students transition into the workforce by way of an internship with Safran.
Referencing the experience that his company has had with workplace development partnerships, Safran Human Resources Manager Sean Hoeing says the legislation could greatly benefit the goal of equipping young workers with marketable skills that make them employable right here in the Granite State.
“The three things they need in order to stay in the state are to be able to have their basic needs met, they need an education and they need a job,” Hoeing said.
Hassan said she intends to hit the road once again to promote the bill in the Granite State.