Scott: Bill would use apprenticeships to improve labor force participation, equip available workers with needed skills

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) discussed bipartisan legislation that aims to address declining labor force participation in a recent Ripon Forum op-ed.

Scott said that job training and technical skill development are required to strengthen the economy and to lift individuals out of poverty.

“Many of the working poor and those living in poverty cannot afford to return to school, or simply do not have the time between working two or three jobs to support their family,” Scott wrote. “So, if an infusion of new jobs comes to their area, such as the manufacturing renaissance we are experiencing in my home state of South Carolina, these hardworking men and women are hard pressed to take advantage of those new opportunities.”

That is related, Scott said, to the nation’s declining labor force participation rate. Many have dropped out of the labor market because their skills don’t match available jobs.

“In response to these challenges, I am proud to have worked with my colleague Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on what we believe to be a strong solution — the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs Act, or LEAP Act,” Scott wrote. “Apprenticeships are a proven way to help people develop in-demand skills and to meet the needs of employers, yet they comprise just 0.2 percent of the nation’s workforce. By 2020, the United States is expected to experience a shortage of 3 million workers with associate degrees or higher and 5 million workers with technical certificates and credentials.”

Scott cited a study showing that apprenticeship program participants earn $240,000 more over their careers on average. He also noted that the return for every federal dollar invested in apprenticeship programs is $27.

“However, perhaps the most powerful tool apprenticeships give is simply the ability to earn while you learn,” Scott wrote. “Whether you are a 22 year old living in poverty and looking for a way to improve your skill set, a 45 year old looking to change careers, or a high school student who does not necessarily want to get a four year degree, the ability to be able to provide for yourself and your family while improving your future earning potential is invaluable.”

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