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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Bill would boost tech training for students

Herrera Beutler part of bipartisan group reintroducing 2017 bill

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 17, 2019, 6:00am

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, joined a group of lawmakers in reintroducing a 2017 bill that would allow high schools and community colleges to create technology apprenticeships with federal grant money.

The Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology Act, or CHANCE in Tech Act, would help fund “industry intermediaries,” such as community colleges and technical schools, in creating training programs in STEM.

“As the tech industry continues to grow in Southwest Washington, the need is paramount for skilled workers to fill open positions and fuel innovation,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release.

The bill, HR 3174, was reintroduced by a bipartisan group of federal representatives and senators — Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

The CHANCE in Tech Act is an effort to fill some of the technology jobs that remain unclaimed despite aggressive recruitment. According to Michael Schutzler, CEO of Washington Technology Industry Association, 25,000 tech-related jobs in the state went unfilled over the course of a year. Apprenticeship programs are an efficient way to train people for those jobs, he said.

Employment in the technology sector is growing twice as fast as general employment in the United States, the bill’s text reads, and average salary in the industry is around double the average of other sectors — $108,000 compared to $53,040.

Under HR 3174, the U.S. Department of Labor would enter into competitive contracts with high schools, junior colleges and community colleges that apply to the program and “demonstrate high achievement in providing students necessary skills to compete in the 21st century workforce,” the bill’s summary states.

The bill was first introduced to the House floor in July 2017 but fizzled in committee.

In a conversation last month with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, Herrera Beutler cited increasing apprenticeship opportunities as one of her goals headed into the 2020 election.

“I’m proud to join my colleagues in offering a bipartisan solution that helps both employers and job-seekers by allowing tech employers to partner with local schools and training programs to expand apprenticeships,” Herrera Beutler said in the press release. “Our economy benefits when we equip workers with quality on-the-job skills training that will help them succeed in high-paying career fields.”

Clark County is home to big technology companies staring down a gap between job openings and candidates in the coming years, and some are starting to tackle the issue on a smaller scale. For instance, Shin-Etsu Handotai America, a Vancouver-based silicon wafer manufacturer, has partnered with Clark College to build a pilot career-training program for five students. In November, Ben Bagherpour, vice president of site services and government affairs for SEH America, said “we have a long way to go” in training enough tech-educated workers.

The federal CHANCE in Tech Act would overlap with a few state bills currently working their way through Olympia — Senate Bill 5327 and House Bill 1336, companion legislation that focus on merging classroom and workplace learning through job shadowing and apprenticeships.

Columbian staff writer