Duckworth & Franken Applaud President’s New Job Training Initiative That Builds upon Their Bill to Close the Skills Gap

President’s plan would strengthen partnerships between employers and community colleges as Duckworth & Franken proposed with their Community College to Career Fund Act

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—February 5, 2016. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) today commended President Obama’s new plan to strengthen partnerships between businesses and community colleges that help train students for in-demand jobs. The President’s new plan builds upon the Duckworth-Franken Community College to Career (CC2C) Fund Act, which was introduced to help close the “skills gap” that makes it difficult for employers to find qualified candidates for unfilled jobs. Both proposals encourage businesses to work more closely with community colleges in developing curriculum and training programs that ensure students graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to fill job openings in their area.

“Employers throughout Illinois and around the nation tell me how difficult it can be to find qualified applicants for their unfilled positions almost as often as I hear from young people struggling to find good jobs after finishing school,” said Congresswoman Duckworth. “The Duckworth-Franken CC2C Act is an important step toward connecting employers with well-qualified students, I’m proud that President Obama has proposed a plan that builds off our efforts and I look forward to working with him to close the skills gap. Having access to innovative workforce development programs that CC2C would support, like those at Harper College and Elgin Community College, is vital to supporting our local economies and keeping America competitive.”

“I often hear from Minnesota businesses struggling to fill job openings because they can’t find workers with the right skills,” said Senator Franken. “And I’ve been working for a long time to fix this ‘skills gap.’ Our legislation incentivizes partnerships—that I’ve seen work in Minnesota—where businesses join with two-year schools to help train workers. I’m glad President Obama recognizes how effective these programs are and am hopeful we can make real strides in closing the skills gap.”

The Community College to Career Fund Act creates a competitive grant program to fund more partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges. These partnerships will focus on valuable job training-related efforts, such as registered apprenticeships, on-the-job training opportunities, and paid internships for low-income students that allow them simultaneously to earn credit for work-based learning in a high-skill field. More information about the bill is available here.

The legislation is supported by more than 60 Members of Congress as well as the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Skill Coalition, the National Tooling and Machining Association, Opportunity Nation, the Precision Machined Products Association, the Precision Metalforming Association, Third Way, and the United States Student Association.

Background on the President’s new initiative, provided by the White House, follows:

Stronger incentives are needed to connect community colleges and businesses. Jobs relying on education and training from associate degrees will grow faster than any other training source in the coming years. At the same time, we know there is greater need for more skilled workers with technical associate degrees and postsecondary certificates. Two industries each have more than 1 million job openings today: professional and business services; and education and health services. Teaching these in-demand fields often requires regular investments in up-to-date equipment and retaining highly-skilled instructors, which can be a challenge for underfunded community colleges.

The country’s most successful community college programs often thrive because of strong partnerships with local employers and industry. To promote this close collaboration, the Administration is calling for new tax incentives to encourage employers to play a more active role in funding and directing educational options at community and technical colleges.  This newly proposed Community College Partnership Tax Credit builds on the Administration’s work to make training programs job-driven, and will enable graduates to acquire a more productive set of skills that are in demand by regional employers when they enter the local workforce.  Under the proposal:

  • Employers would strengthen community and technical colleges through contributions like designing curriculum, donating instructors and equipment, and creating job-based learning opportunities.
  • Once students complete the program, employers would be eligible for a tax credit for hiring them. Employers can earn a one-time $5,000 tax credit for hiring a qualifying community college student graduate full-time.
  • States will designate eligible partnerships between community colleges and employers through a competitive process. They will be encouraged to focus incentives on contributions that support low-wage workers in moving into higher skill, higher wage jobs.

A total of $500 million in credits would be available for each of five years, from 2017 through 2021.

Students with associate degrees earn roughly $10,000 more than those with just a high school diploma. While community college graduates benefits directly, their employment and contributions also offer significant benefits to the nation and the economy as a whole.