WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at boosting employment in the technology sector and New Mexico’s National Laboratories.
Luján’s first bill, the TechSmart Workforce Development Act, will help increase opportunities and innovate pathways to prepare more workers for employment opportunities in the technology sector. The bill establishes the TechSMART Workforce Development Program to provide competitive grants for technology-based job training and education programs. Luján noted that this training will break down barriers to meaningful employment and enable individuals to secure well-paying careers in high-growth,technology positions. The bill is cosponsored by Luján’s fellow New Mexico lawmaker Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA).
“We must prepare workers to succeed in the 21st century economy and New Mexico needs a highly-trained STEM workforce to help attract more high-tech industries,” Luján said. “This bill will support innovative and successful training programs that prepare smart workers for the growing technology job market in New Mexico.”
The second bill, the DOE National Labs Jobs Access Act, seeks to expand apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs that are targeted to deliver the training and educational requirements needed for skilled technical worker positions. Skilled technical workers are vital to the missions at National Labs and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) sites. These programs will increase technical worker employment in New Mexico, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities. This bill, which has bipartisan support, is also cosponsored by Representatives Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Scott Desjarlais (R-TN), and Bill Foster (D-IL), all of whom have national laboratories located in their Congressional districts.
“Skilled technicians support the important missions at all of New Mexico’s national labs and offer opportunities for professional growth and meaningful work,” Luján said. “Our bipartisan bill will expand opportunities and ensure we have a trained workforce in the job pipeline by creating new apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.”
Luján has long been one of the leading advocates for the national labs, working to expand their mission and striving to ensure that their innovative work is fully used to grow the economy and support local businesses.
“This legislation will take us a step closer to realizing the full benefit of our national laboratories by providing more opportunities and more jobs,” Luján added.
Both pieces of legislation have been endorsed by Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), New Mexico TechWorks, and Jobs for the Future (JFF).
“On behalf of Central New Mexico Community College (CNM), we greatly appreciate Congressman Ben Ray Luján’s leadership and his efforts through this proposed legislation to help skill-up our workforce and provide accessible pathways for individuals to train for tech jobs that are crucial for economic development and national security,” CNM President Katharine Winograd said. “CNM is more than ready, willing, and able to be a partner on these efforts. Like Congressman Luján, we want to help more people in our state gain the tech skills they need to fill high-demand jobs that will lead to greater prosperity for families, our economy, and our country.”
“New Mexico TechWorks strongly supports and endorses the TechSmart Workforce Development and DOE Jobs Access Legislation presented by Congressman Ben Ray Luján,” said Jennifer Case Nevarez, Executive Director and Lead Educator of New Mexico TechWorks. “We are grateful for the TechSMART Workforce Development Program, as we need more national support and flexible approaches to increasing momentum in the Ttech industry and to accessing non-traditional education paths. The DOE Jobs Access Program will help build an effective educational pipeline for training a large number of technicians who can fill the middle skills segment. Local apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs will support the skilled staffing needs of these labs while improving opportunities for youth and elevating and emphasizing the need for community members to be trained to fill these openings.”
“JFF’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning applauds this legislation for its forward thinking approach to modern apprenticeships. This effort will help bridge skill gaps and tap new talent pools for the critical work of the National Laboratories and National Nuclear Security Administration,” said Eric Seleznow, Senior Advisor at Jobs for the Future. “The tightening labor market makes it more important than ever to develop regional partnerships that can come together to design high quality apprenticeship programs. The ACCESS Act will meet the workforce needs of this important industry ensuring a pipeline of skilled workers for the future. The proven rigor, standards, and quality of register apprenticeship programs will serve this industry well.”