Bennet, Khanna Unveil Legislation to Expand Student Apprenticeship Programs

The Student Apprenticeship Act Would Grow America’s Skilled Workforce and Help More Coloradans Build Career Pathways to Financial Stability

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D) and California U.S. Representative Ro Khanna (D) unveiled the Student Apprenticeship Act, legislation to expand apprenticeship programs in Colorado and across the country to grow the nation’s skilled workforce and prepare more Americans for a successful career.

“Through paid, hands-on work experience, apprenticeship programs offer an affordable way for students to earn a credential in their chosen career field and for employers to help fill the jobs that our 21st century economy needs," said Bennet. “My legislation would expand apprenticeship opportunities for  students so they can graduate able to earn a living wage, not just the minimum wage. This will help grow our workforce and ensure more Coloradans can build career pathways to financial stability.” 

“To prepare our young people for the 21st century economy, we must recognize that work experience and higher education go hand in hand,” said Khanna. “Apprenticeship programs are key to ensuring students are well-trained for a variety of high-paying, high-demand jobs,” he added. “We must invest in our workforce if we want to maintain America’s global economic leadership.”

Even with low national unemployment, 11 million job positions remain vacant due to a lack of domestic talent with the skills companies need. The Student Apprenticeship Act would close the gap between higher education, business and labor by modernizing workforce training and accelerating the growth of registered apprenticeships nationwide. 

Bennet and Khanna’s Student Apprenticeship Act would: 

Promote Collaboration Between Higher Education and Employers

  • The bill creates a grant program that aligns institutions of higher education, employers, and workforce intermediaries to create apprenticeship opportunities for students.

Create Competitive Grants to Drive Apprenticeships Expansion 

  • The bill supports the expansion of registered apprenticeships by providing institutions of higher education, employers, and workforce intermediaries with funds to offset the costs associated with developing and implementing student-apprenticeships. 

Update Federal Work Study Programs 

  • The bill allows apprenticeship programs to qualify as work-study programs so eligible students (who demonstrate financial need) earn additional funds to pay their tuition through work that aligns with their coursework and their intended career path.

In February 2022, Bennet welcomed U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to Colorado to hear from businesses, students, and labor leaders about apprenticeship programs during visits to the Denver Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver, and Western State College of Construction and Pipefitters Local 208. The Student Apprenticeship Act would invest in programs like MSU’s to help more students gain valuable work experience while earning college credit.

“Apprenticeships provide relevant, enriching experiences for college students and at MSU Denver we've seen firsthand how these work-based learning opportunities kickstart our students' careers. I am proud to support Senator Bennet's bill to create more apprenticeship programs, which will connect credentials to careers through valuable hands-on training for students," said Janine Davidson, MSU Denver.

“Lockheed Martin is excited about the potential of the Student Apprenticeship Act. Our company believes in the power of these kinds of programs. In fact, Lockheed Martin has over 30 different apprenticeships—and thousands of apprentices—that provide new pathways for talented people to pursue meaningful work in areas such as IT, manufacturing, and engineering. This new legislation would further bolster our efforts to develop a more diverse, highly-trained and empowered workforce that’s equipped to thrive in the future,” said Nick Spain, Vice President, Human Resources, Lockheed Martin Space.

“Colorado Succeeds applauds Senator Bennet’s legislation encouraging stronger partnerships across institutions of higher education and employers to support more students in work-based learning opportunities. By incentivizing stronger alignment across systems, students can acquire in demand skills and competencies while receiving postsecondary credit for work experience. As a result, more students are on the road to earning a postsecondary credential of value in the marketplace,” said Kelly Caufield, Vice President of Government Affairs, Colorado Succeeds.

The bill text is available HERE. A one-page summary is available HERE