Workforce Training Grant
Promote Non-College Career Pathways
Create a Workforce Training Grant providing up to $10,000 annually to employers for each trainee engaged in on-the-job training. Define “trainee” status for workers whose time is split between work and formal training. Certify eligible training programs that abide by defined parameters and impose strict quality controls.
Wages for workers without college degrees have stagnated for decades, in part because America lacks effective non-college pathways. Public funding for post-secondary education goes almost exclusively to traditional higher education even though most Americans do not earn degrees, and high schools operate mostly as college-prep academies. Private employers hesitate to invest in job training themselves unless they are sure they can reap the benefits.
Public funding should support workforce training just as it supports higher education. Employers know best what skills the workforce needs and how to teach them, have access to mentors and facilities, and can provide direct workplace experience. Employers can also partner with industry groups, labor unions, and community colleges to provide relevant training even when employers themselves cannot.
Congress should direct the Department of Labor (DOL) to create a Workforce Training Grant funded by redirecting existing higher education subsidies. Employers would receive up to $10,000 per year for each trainee engaged in on-the-job training. DOL would define “trainee” status for workers whose time is split between work and formal training and establish the parameters that employers must define for training programs (responsible entity, program length, curriculum overview, completion standards, expected wage and job placement outcomes, and formal certifications earned). DOL would certify eligible programs and provide employers the annual grant. Imposing strict quality controls, including decertifying underperforming training options, would protect program integrity and provide data to track program effectiveness. The American Workforce Act introduced by Senator Tom Cotton provides a good example of this approach.