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Bonamici, Ferguson Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Boost Apprenticeships

October 25, 2017
Press Release


WASHINGTON, DC [10/25/17] – Today Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Congressman Drew Ferguson (R-GA) introduced bipartisan legislation to boost apprenticeships and work-based learning programs in an effort to close the skills gap between businesses struggling to find workers with appropriate skills, and workers without meaningful pathways to better paying jobs.

Bonamici and Ferguson, both members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, introduced the Promoting Apprenticeships through Regional Training Networks for Employers’ Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act. The PARTNERS Act would establish a grant program to support the creation and expansion of industry partnerships to help small and medium sized businesses develop work-based learning programs and provide support services for workers. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is leading similar legislation in the Senate. You can read a summary of the bill here.

“When I visit communities in NW Oregon, I hear from many people who feel left behind because they do not have the skills they need to compete in today’s economy,” said Bonamici. “Our bipartisan PARTNERS Act will bring together employers, education, training, labor, and community-based organizations to develop work-based learning programs that benefit workers and rapidly growing sectors like health care and technology. We can build pathways to get more people back to work and provide our nation’s businesses with a skilled workforce that will improve productivity and efficiency.”

“The Central Education Center in Newnan led Georgia by implementing an innovative style of apprenticeship that prepares our young people for 21st century careers,” said Ferguson. “I am introducing this bill to allow workers across the nation to have access to work-based training. The United States needs a workforce that’s competitive on the world stage, but we must also face the stark realities of our current fiscal situation. By using H-1B visa fees to fund a direct path into the workplace, we can ensure the next generation receives an education for success at no cost to the American taxpayer.”

Bonamici and Ferguson spoke on the House floor to encourage their colleagues to join the effort. You can download video footage of Bonamici speaking here, and Ferguson speaking here.

Andy Van Kluenen, CEO of the National Skills Coalition said, "Our country needs to expand apprenticeship to help more businesses and working people get the skills they need to succeed in our economy. This bill will bring together companies in the same local industry, and it will help them place motivated apprentices at waiting worksites. Workers will earn a paycheck while they learn valuable skills. Businesses will fill critical jobs. It's a win-win."

Bonamici crafted the legislation with input from the Oregon Employment Department, Worksystems, Inc., and Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. “Registered apprenticeships, and the employer partnerships that lead to coordinated multi-employer apprenticeship programs, are a critical part of Oregon’s workforce strategy,” said Kay Erickson, Director of Oregon Employment Department. “The value of a nationally recognized credential that is part of a career pathway is proven. Prioritizing funds for helping employers expand these programs is an essential part of our state’s workforce solutions.”

Bonamici and Ferguson are strong advocates for apprenticeships and work-based learning programs in Congress. One of Bonamici’s first bills, the WISE Investment Act, aimed to foster collaboration among local businesses and workforce training programs. Bonamici supported the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) when it passed Congress in 2014, and she has led efforts to increase funding for WIOA and apprenticeship programs.