Late last week, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) put forward a sweeping legislative proposal that reforms critical aspects of the Higher Education Act of 1965, legislation that has been updated over the years and last reauthorized in 2008.
This proposed overhaul, named the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform), seeks to dramatically change the more than $1 trillion federal student aid program and make other regulatory and programmatic changes that will encourage students to follow career pathways to real jobs with the ultimate goal of less debt.
Chairwoman Foxx has been very deliberate in her leadership of the Education and Workforce Committee, seeking opportunities to align past programs, such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act with the House-passed Perkins reauthorization bill that was sent to the Senate in June. The PROSPER Act is no exception and takes the opportunity to make major changes to the postsecondary education system in the United States.
Chairwoman Foxx has publicly highlighted technological changes, economic improvements, the skilled workforce gap and unfilled employer needs as reasons to push ahead as Congress prepares for the second half of the 115th Congress.
Manufacturers are pleased that the recently released draft includes an Apprenticeship Grant Program. The proposed program will be administered by the Department of Education and follows a public-private partnership model that aims to align with in-demand jobs. A business or institution of higher education can administer and supervise the program. Funds can be used for equipment and learning materials, a wage subsidy for the student and industry-specific programming, as well as exams and fees associated with certifications needed to achieve an industry-recognized credential among other features. Title II of the proposed bill sets out the requirements, definitions and stipulations of the newly established earn and learn program.
Manufacturers have been outspoken and persistent in efforts to gain new tools and opportunities to address the skills gap. A forthcoming NAM survey ranks workforce as a top business challenge for manufacturers. We are pleased that Chairwoman Foxx understands these challenges and put manufacturers’ top priorities into action.