The JOBS Act Can Remove Barriers to Skills Development. Congress Must Pass It

Published feb. 01, 2023

JFF applauds the re-introduction of the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. The bill, a bipartisan effort championed by Senators Tim Kaine and Mike Braun, allows students and workers from low-income backgrounds access to Pell Grants to help pay for short-term job training programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials. The nation's economic future depends on our ability to respond to and reskill workers as automation, technological advances, and post-pandemic pressures shift skill demands. Many of this country’s learners and workers—particularly those already working and caring for families—need these on-ramps to quality jobs that are faster and more flexible than traditional degree programs.

For too long, our federal student aid system has been out of step with the needs of today’s students, workers, and economy, and the Pell Grant program has excluded many students pursuing short-term credentials aligned with workforce needs. With the creation of millions of jobs through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), it is now even more critical to reduce the financial barriers to skills training and credential attainment needed for careers in infrastructure, climate, and technology fields.

The expansion proposed in the JOBS Act stems from strong evidence that access to high-quality short-term, labor market-aligned workforce training programs benefits workers, employers, and regional economies. JFF’s Policy Leadership Trust recently released a report highlighting successful examples of states and community colleges implementing high-quality short-term credentialing initiatives. Other strong examples include:

  • Virginia’s FastForward program, a short-term training program for high-demand industries offered through Virginia’s community colleges, where 83% of participants reported that the program improved their financial standing.
  • State-funded short-term programs in Virginia, Louisiana, and Colorado, which reported high returns on investments of programs in in-demand industries, including health care and clinical services, engineering, computer and information science, education, construction, and business management.

The JOBS legislation includes guardrails to ensure strong returns on this federal investment, both for individual students and for taxpayers, including authorizing Pell Grants for high-quality job training programs that align with local, regional, or state labor market needs and that are offered at community colleges or nonprofit institutions of higher education. Programs would also need to lead to career pathways and stackable credentials.

The JOBS Act offers Congress an opportunity for bipartisan collaboration to modernize our nation’s postsecondary education system, drive inclusive economic growth, and prepare Americans for good jobs and careers. JFF urges the Senate to take up and pass this critical legislation quickly.