June 05, 2019

Duckworth, Crapo, Luján Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help National Labs Find Qualified Employees by Improving Workforce Training


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mike Crapo (R-ID) along with Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced bipartisan legislation to prepare the next generation of American workers to work at our National Laboratories and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by ensuring they gain the training and skills they need to succeed. With many employees of our National Laboratories and NNSA sites nearing retirement age, the DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act (Apprenticeships for Complete and Committed Employment for Specialized Skills) will address these facilities’ looming workforce shortage by establishing apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs between the national laboratories and NNSA and universities, community colleges, local high schools and intermediaries. Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-03) is introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The skilled technicians that work at our National Laboratories represent the best among us, dedicating their expertise to helping solve the world’s most pressing problems,” Senator Duckworth said. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Crapo on this bipartisan legislation to prepare the next generation of students to work at our National Laboratories, helping ensure America remains at the forefront of technological innovation for generations to come.” 

“The demand for a qualified, educated workforce of skilled technicians is increasing rapidly across the country and Idaho, and national laboratories like the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) are feeling the effects,” said Senator Crapo.  “Investments to train a new skilled workforce are needed to sustain the critical work of these labs and to provide well-paying jobs.  The DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act would help fill these high-demand positions at INL and other national labs by supporting apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, with a particular eye toward programs that serve veterans, young people and individuals with barriers to employment.”

“Expanding professional opportunities and investing in our workforce is critical for preparing for the future. This bipartisan, legislation will provide a boost to local economies and create a job pipeline for our national laboratories across the country and in New Mexico. Critically, this legislation will create new, good-paying jobs for New Mexicans. I’m proud to work with my colleagues to achieve real, meaningful progress in our efforts to bolster working women and men,” said Assistant Speaker Luján.

The bipartisan and bicameral DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act would create a grant program to be run by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in consultation with the Department of Labor, to facilitate the creation of these apprenticeship programs. Technicians would be trained in one-of-a-kind facilities, hazardous materials, special machinery and tools that are inaccessible from commercial industry experts. The bill is supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Duckworth has long supported investing in cutting-edge research programs to address the skills gap and prepare Americans to work in high-demand industries. In March, Duckworth re-introduced the Energy Jobs for our Heroes Act to help Veterans gain the training and credentials necessary to secure job opportunities in the energy sector. The legislation connects highly qualified and skilled Veterans with employers in fast-growing solar, wind, nuclear and clean energy industries. Last month, she also re-introduced the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (CC2C) to make education more affordable for students pursuing degrees in high-skill industries by supporting innovative partnerships between technical colleges, community colleges and businesses that train students for careers in high-demand fields like advanced manufacturing, health care, clean energy and information technology.