02.18.20

Holland Sentinel: Peters visits West Michigan tradesmen to tout GI apprenticeship bill

COOPERSVILLE — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, was in Coopersville on Tuesday to tour a local tradesmen facility and highlight sponsored legislation that would open more apprenticeship opportunities for military veterans.

Peters toured Local Chapter 174 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA) in Coopersville on Tuesday, Feb. 18. He spoke with apprentices and union members during the visit, walking through the facility’s welding and classroom sections.

Peters, who is up for re-election in November, highlighted the Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act that aims at expanding the pathways to apprenticeship programs for military veterans.

“My goal is to expand the ability for folks to get apprenticeship training in a registered program registered by the Department of Labor,” said Peters, who is a veteran of the Navy Reserve. The Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act passed the Senate in December and is awaiting passage in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill would expand veterans’ access to financial assistance to participate in the nearly 1,100 apprenticeships registered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Currently, only about 200 apprenticeships are accessible through the GI bill.

“My focus right now is making sure our veterans when they come off of active duty and transition into civilian life, that they have a clear path to do that,” Peters said. “And that path should be a variety of paths. The GI Bill helps veterans coming off of active duty, get additional education for them to transition into civilian life.”

Peters added that the bill would give veterans pathways to more opportunities outside of the traditional, four-year degree programs.

“It’s going to lead to a lot more opportunities for them in skilled trade,” he said. “Not everybody wants to go to a four-year college program. They want to be in skilled trades, but it can be a difficult process when you’ve been in the military for years and you have a family.”

Peters, who was first elected to the Senate in 2015, added that legislators in Washington need to continue to have discussions on increasing opportunities in the skilled trades.

“We have to support great training, very focused on career training, whether it’s a skilled trade through the union or skilled trades that you will find in machine shops and other manufacturing facilities,” he said. ”... They have jobs that are available right now that they can hire folks, but they need folks that have skills that they can transfer into the shop. Right now we don’t do a good job of providing those opportunities.

″... Some of those students so don’t want to be in the normal track that everybody thinks that they should be in, they want to chart their own path,” he continued. “And they need to have opportunities to be able to chart that path. So that’s going to require additional investments in career technical education generally.”


By:  Arpan Lobo
Source: Holland Sentinel