Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 25, 2018
Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. COMSTOCK. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Smith for yielding me the time.

I rise in support of H.R. 5509, the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act. This bill takes important steps in addressing the growing need for a diverse and technically trained STEM workforce.

Technological advances have transformed the workplace with almost 20 percent of all jobs in the U.S. economy requiring some level of STEM training. These jobs are expected to grow nearly 9 percent over the next decade, faster than any other employment category; and, of course, we know these are also higher paying jobs, and we want more women and a more diverse workforce here, also.

Unfortunately, we also know that we have been failing to keep students in the STEM pipeline. Almost half of all students who start in a STEM major do not graduate with one. Of those who do graduate with a STE degree, only half go on to a career in a STEM field. It is essential we address these challenges in order to ensure U.S. competitiveness in the global economy.

In February, I chaired a Research and Technology Subcommittee hearing, which looked at innovative STEM education and workforce training models from across the country. These models demonstrated how apprenticeships, mentoring, and on-the-job training are used to successfully bridge STEM skills gaps.

I am happy to say that many of the lessons learned from that hearing are reflected in this bill, including the point that most successful programs are an integration of academia, technical training, and hands- on work experience.

H.R. 5509 directs the National Science Foundation to competitively award grants to community colleges and 4-year institutions to develop and improve STEM courses and degrees. These programs will combine formal education with applied learning experiences, such as apprenticeships and internships, by partnering with regional employers needing to fill skilled and technical STEM jobs.

This bill also calls for NSF to competitively award grants to determine best practices and measure student outcomes of distance learning and simulated work environment courses for STEM education and technical skills training.

Lastly, it directs the National Science Foundation to examine the development and sustainability of skilled technical workforces from across the U.S. and around the world, explore the feasibility of surveying the U.S. skilled technical workforce, and research and develop potential labor market analysis innovations.

These programs and important research will help support and build the STEM pipeline and the STEM workforce that will drive American innovation in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century economy.

I want to thank Leader McCarthy for introducing this legislation and for the opportunity to cosponsor this. I also thank Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Johnson for their great work in ushering this bill through the committee on a bipartisan basis.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill.