12.04.19

Senate Unanimously Passes Peters Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Veterans Apprenticeship Opportunities

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate unanimously approved bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) to expand apprenticeship opportunities for veterans. The Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act would increase veterans’ access to financial assistance they can use in connection with an apprenticeship program. In Michigan alone, only a few hundred of the 1,000 registered apprenticeships listed as active by the Department of Labor (DOL) have been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Peters spoke on the Senate floor today about the importance of this bipartisan bill, which he worked extensively on with Rick Donovan, a Michigan veteran in Oakland County and State Legislative Officer for the Polish Legion of American Veterans Department of Michigan Donovan reached out to Peters about the lack of apprenticeships available for veterans that qualify for them to use their GI Bill benefits.

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“When I travel across Michigan, one issue comes up regularly in my conversations with businesses, workers and families: and that issue is the need to close the skills gap…That’s why one of my top priorities in the Senate is to expand access to quality skills training programs, like registered apprenticeships, that are connected to today’s in-demand jobs,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Our Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act takes…commonsense steps to expand opportunities for veterans to use their financial assistance for quality training programs that lead to good-paying jobs…Our nation’s returning heroes deserve every opportunity to pursue their professional dreams after their service. By expanding qualified apprenticeships, this bill will make a real difference in the lives of our veterans.”

“We owe so much to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in service to our country,” Senator Capito said. “This bill will ensure that our veterans are aware of and have access to resources like apprenticeship opportunities and empower them to achieve future success in the workforce. I was proud to sponsor this bill with Senator Peters, and I am confident that the passage of this legislation will help more veterans’ transition into civilian life following their service.”

“At first, I wasn’t aware that my VA benefits could go towards an employer sponsored registered apprenticeship – and after I found out, I was able to use those benefits to help build my skills and career as a union sheet metal worker. Ultimately, I was able to use this training towards a college degree,” said Oakland County veteran Rick Donovan, State Legislative Officer, Polish Legion of American Veterans Department of Michigan. “More veterans and eligible family members need to be made aware of these apprenticeship opportunities, and streamlining the process would be beneficial so that they may obtain meaningful employment while using earned GI Bill benefits. I commend Senator Peters’ bipartisan Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeship Act and his successful effort getting it passed unanimously in the Senate. This bill help many veterans succeed after service to our country, and I hope it will pass the House soon and become law.”

“The Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act underscores the importance of apprenticeship programs that can provide the skills that will help them earn additional civilian credentials and carve out a path toward good-paying jobs,” said John P. Yori II, President, United Soldiers and Sailors of America. “I am pleased that this bill that would help our veterans take advantage of their GI Bill benefits to cover basic expenses has unanimously passed the Senate, and I appreciate all the efforts Senators Peters and Capito have undertaken to build this bipartisan support.”

The bipartisan bill would take three commonsense steps to expand opportunities for veterans to use financial assistance in connection with a quality apprenticeship program:

  • New apprenticeship programs applying to register through the Department of Labor would need to provide a written assurance that they are aware of GI Bill assistance and committed to taking the steps to enable veteran apprentices to access these benefits.
  • Apprenticeships would need to factor the skills, training, and experiences gained through military service into where the veteran is placed in the program, which could mean a more advanced placement with higher apprentice wages.
  • The Department of Labor would need to notify the VA of newly registered apprenticeship programs. This would enable the VA to be more proactive in outreach to registered programs not yet approved for GI Bill benefits.

Peters has been a strong advocate in the Senate for Michigan’s servicemembers and their families. Last month, Peters urged the Trump Administration to immediately lift the benefits freeze on veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Peters also introduced bipartisan legislation to significantly improve the VA’s Caregiver Program after the VA Office of the Inspector General recommended reforms to the program.

Text of Peters’ floor remarks as prepared for delivery is copied below and available here:

“When I travel across Michigan, one issue comes up regularly in my conversations with businesses, workers and families: and that issue is the need to close the skills gap. There are good-paying jobs available all across my state, but not enough workers have the specific skills needed to fill them.

“That’s why one of my top priorities in the Senate is to expand access to quality skills training programs, like registered apprenticeships, that are connected to today’s in-demand jobs. Effective apprenticeships are good for business, they’re good for workers in both urban and rural areas of Michigan, as well as all across our country.

“But I’ve also heard from veterans, like Rick Donovan in Oakland County – about how there’s a lack of apprenticeships available for veterans that qualify for them to use their GI benefits. The GI Bill offers veterans in approved apprenticeships additional financial support for housing and other training materials as they progress through the program.

“Unfortunately, only a small portion of apprenticeship programs registered by the Department of Labor are also approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In Michigan, for example, there are over 1,000 registered apprenticeship programs - but only a couple hundred in which veterans can use their VA educational assistance in connection with that program.

“This is simply unacceptable. Veterans should have access to as many opportunities as there are available. That’s why Senator Capito and I introduced a bipartisan bill to ensure veterans’ interests are not falling through the cracks between federal agencies as they pursue apprenticeships to launch their careers.

“Our Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act takes three commonsense steps to expand opportunities for veterans to use their financial assistance for quality training programs that lead to good-paying jobs.

“First, the bill would ensure every program applying to become a registered apprenticeship is proactively thinking about ways to support veteran candidates. Programs would need to provide a written assurance to the Department of Labor that they are aware of GI Bill assistance and are committed to taking the steps to enable veterans to use these benefits as apprentices.

“Second, the bill will clarify that skills and training that veterans gained during their military service would be a factor into how they’re placed in the program. Many veterans may qualify for advanced placement – with higher apprenticeship wages – due to their unique experiences while bravely serving our country. Our bill will recognize those skillsets.

“Third, the bill will improve coordination between federal agencies. It would direct the Department of the Labor to notify the VA of newly registered apprenticeship programs, a simple, straightforward action to actively update new apprenticeship opportunities.

“Our nation’s returning heroes deserve every opportunity to pursue their professional dreams after their service. By expanding qualified apprenticeships, this bill will make a real difference in the lives of our veterans.

“Rick, a veteran advocate from Michigan, said he would never have known that he could use his GI Bill benefits for on-the-job training had he not crossed paths with a more senior veteran who told him about it. It was a conversation that literally changed his life. With the support of the GI Bill, Rick was able to pursue an apprenticeship following his military service. He then used that training toward a college degree, and has built a successful career as a union sheet metal worker in Michigan.

“We need to listen to and partner with veterans like Rick, who are tirelessly advocating to open doors to help fellow veterans, Michiganders, and Americans so they can achieve economic success in the 21st century.”

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