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Holt Introduces Online Job Training Legislation

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC


Online Job Training Act of 2008 Would Encourage
States to Expand Web-based Training Programs

Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today introduced the Online Job Training Act of 2008, a bill that would amend the Workforce Investment Act to provide grants to states to establish or improve workforce training programs on the Internet. The bill would make job training more accessible and convenient for prospective workers. The legislation is based on a successful online learning pilot program run by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and Rutgers University.

For the fifth straight month, the economy lost jobs and unemployment rose from 5.0 percent in April to 5.5 percent in May. The economy has lost nearly 325,000 jobs this year and 8.5 million Americans are unemployed.

"As our nation faces a downturn in the economy that leaves more and more Americans looking for a job, Congress must support new and innovative programs to train people with the skills they need to succeed in today's increasingly competitive workforce," said Holt, a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor. "By creating grants for online job training programs, this bill would provide workers - many of whom may need to stay at home and raise a family - with the opportunity to improve their skills in this new economy."

Under the bill, each state would be eligible for $100,000 in federal funding to implement or enhance online courses as part of their workforce investment programs. The bill would also authorize $1 million for the creation of a national center for excellence in online job training to coordinate with state and local workforce investment boards as they develop technology-driven methods for education and job training.

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development pilot program has demonstrated the value and effectiveness of online courses in providing skills training and education to low waged workers. This program, developed by Dr. Mary Gatta, Director of Workforce Policy and Research at Rutgers University's Center for Women and Work, provided 128 women with a computer, Internet connection and access to online courses. Nearly all the women completed the program, and participants experienced a 14 percent annual wage increase.

One New Jersey woman took a course at night, while working in a residential group home. Because she was gaining certificates and job training in Excel and Access, her employer gave her a promotion to digitize and then manage the bookkeeping/database. In fact, she competed with another employee with more seniority for the promotion, and received the promotion specifically because of her job training. With the money from the promotion, she was able to start saving to send her daughter to college.

"Congressman's Holt's bill demonstrates the importance of using technology to better deliver education and training to all Americans," Gatta said. "Over the years, many other states have implemented similar online learning programs for marginalized groups, and this bill represents a significant next step in scaling these programs up nationwide."

"This bill moves the workforce investment system into the 21st century," said Dr. Henry Plotkin, Executive Director of the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission. "There will never be enough teachers or classrooms to teach all adults the skills they need to compete in our economy. The great utility of Congressman Holt's bill is that it will democratize the adult learning process."

On Thursday, Holt also supported the Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act, legislation that would provide up to 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits to 3.8 million jobless workers who exhausted the 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits.

"While Congress considers effective ways to strengthen our economy in the long-term, we must also stand by hard-working Americans who have fallen upon difficult times during the current downturn," Holt said. "Congress previously has extended unemployment benefits when the economy has struggled. Now should be no different."

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