Pryor Seeks Job Training Opportunities for Today's Veterans; Introduces Bill to Help Vets Participate in Growing Industries
Senator Mark Pryor today joined Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) in sponsoring the Veterans Employment and Training Act (VET Act) to provide educational benefits that match today's job training demands for growing industries. Pryor said he is concerned that unemployment among veterans between the ages of 20 and 24 years old is over 15 percentnearly double the unemployment for non-veterans in the same age group.
Pryor said the Veterans Administration offers a number of programs to help active duty troops make the transition back into the work force. One of those programs is the Accelerated Payment Program, which provides lump-sum education payments for one term, quarter, or semester at a time to veterans who enroll in high-tech training programs, instead of the smaller monthly stipend for veterans who participate in all other educational opportunities.
His legislation, the VET Act, will expand the number of job training programs eligible for the Accelerated Payment Program beyond the high-tech sector to include 14 industries, identified by the Department of Labor, that are expected to experience high growth in the coming years. These industries include trucking, construction, hospitality, financial services and homeland security.
"In Arkansas, we have soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who are having a hard time finding work, and we have sectors, such as the trucking industry that are expecting phenomenal growth over the next few years," Pryor said. "Our bill opens a door to help veterans find high-paying jobs, and it provides qualified employees to help companies fill these jobs. It's a win-win solution for our veterans, businesses and the economy."
Pryor said many training programs in the sectors identified by DOL as high-growth are short-term and high-cost in nature. For example, he said truck driver training courses typically last 4 to 6 weeks, but cost $4,000 to $6,000. At most, GI bill benefits offset only about $1,000 to $1,500 of the tuition, discouraging veterans from using their GI bill benefits for these kinds of training programs. Accelerated benefits, offered under the VET Act, would cover 60% of the cost of such programs ($3,600 in the case of truck driver training) and the benefits would be paid as a lump-sum rather than on a monthly basis.
The VET Act is supported by The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, National Association of State Approving Agencies, American Trucking Association, Association of General Contractors, American Hotel and Lodging Association and Association of Community Colleges.