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Senate Bill 1304 Establishes a National Center for Excellence for the 21st Century Workforce

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Senate BillThis month, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) unveiled Senate Bill 1304 the “21st Century Energy Workforce Act.”

Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on energy and Natural Resources, also unveiled bills addressing cybersecurity in the energy sector, modernizing and securing the grid and beginning the transition to cost-saving smart buildings.

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According to the Congressional findings in the bill, the energy sector is the third largest industry in the United States, 1.5 million new skilled workers will be needed in the sector in the next 15 years and a the skilled workforce is critical to ensuring the sector’s growth.

“The 21st Century Energy Workforce Act is a major step forward in helping our nation meet the skilled worker shortage looming over the energy industry,” said Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “By giving apprenticeship programs the same standing as community colleges and other educational institutions when it comes to qualifying for federal job-training grants, Congress is finally recognizing what energy industry leaders have known for years: that our graduates are the best-trained and most qualified workers in the entire industry.”

S.B. 1304 establishes a National Center for Excellence for the 21st Century Workforce, a nationwide advisory board for the development of a skilled energy workforce, which would develop job training programs and standards for educational curricula and for career placement in both traditional and clean energy sectors. The legislation would also create a competitive grant program to provide job training in the energy industry, in order to help students obtain industry-recognized credentials.

“Over the next decade, more than half of today’s skilled utility workforce is expected to turn over, and more than one-third of the workforce may need to be replaced over the next five years,” said Edison Electric Institute President Tom Kuhn. “Through the Center for Energy Workforce Development, EEI is leading efforts to bring together electric and natural gas utilities and their associations, organized labor, educators and other stakeholders to help identify career pathways and workforce development solutions to help fill this gap. We thank Senator Cantwell for taking a holistic and comprehensive approach to energy workforce development that takes into account opportunities for career coaching and support for state consortia that will enhance efforts to encourage a diverse group of students to pursue careers in the energy sector.”

The proposal is slated for discussion at the 10 a.m. May 19 Senate Hearing on Energy Supply Legislation. Follow this link for the hearing agenda.

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