Portman, Thompson propose bipartisan, bicameral infrastructure jobs training bill

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) on April 13 introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would ensure American workers receive the skills needed for in-demand infrastructure jobs in fields like construction, transportation, maritime, and energy.

“This bipartisan bill can help us ensure that we are able to fill jobs in the infrastructure industry quickly and help those struggling with job loss, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, get the skills they need to succeed,” Sen. Portman said on Tuesday, noting that the U.S. infrastructure system “is in critical need of updates while at the same time infrastructure industries struggle to meet workforce demands.”

Sen. Portman joined U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) to introduce the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act, S. 1078, while Rep. Thompson also signed on as an original cosponsor with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) of their chamber’s version, H.R. 2459.

“As co-chair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus, I have come to see firsthand the importance workforce development strategies play in equipping Americans with the skills necessary to repair and rebuild our infrastructure,” Rep. Thompson said. “The BUILDS Act will contribute to the impactful role industry partners play in building a healthy, reliable, and long-lasting workforce.”

If enacted, the BUILDS Act would engage businesses in workforce training programs and ensure worker success in such programs, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

Specifically, the bill would support businesses by connecting them with education providers to develop classroom curricula to complement on-the-job learning; supporting participants in work-based learning programs; training managers and front-line workers to serve as mentors to work-based learning participants; and recruiting individuals for work-based learning, particularly individuals being served in the workforce system or by other human service agencies, according to the summary. 

Additionally, the bill would provide support services to ensure participant success in work-based learning that would be divided between three stages: pre-employment, early employment, and continuing employment, among other provisions, the summary says.  

“With the BUILDS Act we can improve worker training and provide more resources for job training programs targeted toward in-demand infrastructure-related jobs,” said Sen. Portman. 

The BUILDS Act is supported by Advance CTE: State Leaders Connecting Learning to Work, the Association for Career and Technical Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Skills Coalition, Jobs for the Future, the National Taskforce on Tradeswomen’s Issues, and the National League of Cities.