Reps. Bonamici and Ferguson introduce bipartisan PARTNERS Act

October 25, 2017

On October 25, Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA) introduced the bipartisan Promoting Apprenticeship with Regional Training Networks for Employers Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act of 2017. The bill would support partnerships between businesses and other local workforce stakeholders to enable small- and medium-sized employers to develop and expand – and workers to succeed in – work-based learning programs.

Work based learning, including apprenticeship, provides individuals with paid, on-the-job work training and experience.  For companies in desperate need of new workers, work-based learning immediately puts motivated hires on site. The approach has been shown to reinforce employee engagement, leading to better morale, higher retention and lower turnover. And it can help increase workplace diversity by offering a structured way for community residents to build careers with local firms. Workers, meanwhile, obtain market-driven skills and can “learn while they earn.”  

Businesses—especially small- and medium-sized businesses—often lack the infrastructure to establish apprenticeships or work-based learning programs on their own, however. Industry or sector partnerships can help reduce the burdens on businesses and by convening local stakeholders to collaboratively develop training related instruction, support services, and on-the-job training components of a work-based learning program.

Under the PARTNERS Act, industry and sector partnerships would receive grants of up to $500,000 for two years. Recipients would convene necessary partners and coordinate a set of business services to help small- and medium-sized businesses develop and run work-based learning programs. Partnerships would also coordinate worker support services to improve worker retention and success.

Business engagement activities could include:

  • Assistance navigating registration process for apprenticeship;
  • Connecting businesses with education providers to develop classroom instruction to complement on-the-job learning;
  • Development of curriculum design of the on-the-job component of a program;
  • Service as employer of record during a transitional period for participants entering work-based learning programs;
  • Providing training to managers and front-line workers to aide in their provision of mentoring or training to work-based learning participants;
  • Recruitment of individuals to participate in the work-based learning programs, particularly individuals receiving additional workforce and human services.

Support services that help keep workers on the job could include:

  • Connecting participants with adult basic education;
  • Connecting participants with pre-work-based learning training, including through pre-apprenticeship programs;
  • Providing connections to transportation and child care services;
  • Developing mentorship opportunities; and
  • Providing tools, clothing, and other required items necessary to start employment.

Representatives Bonamici and Ferguson spoke on the floor this morning about the PARTNERS Act and they are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter on the bill. 

National Skills Coalition applauds Representatives Bonamici and Ferguson for their leadership in expanding access to work-based learning and apprenticeship programs, consistent with the proposals outlined in our New Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. We look forward to working with the members of Congress to advance this important legislation.