Bipartisan Slotkin/Peters bill expanding apprenticeship opportunities for veterans heads to president for signature

 In Veterans

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ bipartisan legislation to expand apprenticeship opportunities for veterans is headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law, after passing the U.S. House of Representatives on March 11, 2020. Peters led the Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act in the Senate, where it passed with unanimous support. Slotkin championed the legislation in the House.

The bill will allow more veterans to use their GI bill benefits to secure a registered apprenticeship. In Michigan alone, less than half of the 1,000 registered apprenticeships listed as active by the Department of Labor have been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Slotkin, who served three tours in Iraq alongside the military as a CIA analyst, is married to a retired 30-year Army officer, and her stepdaughter is currently on active duty at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

“When we make the decision to send men and women to fight for our country, we make the decision to support them for the rest of their lives — and that means veterans should have every opportunity to enroll in an apprenticeship that connects them to good-paying jobs, and have expenses covered by their GI benefits,” said Slotkin, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“This bill came straight from concerns raised by Michigan veterans — that only a small fraction of apprenticeship programs certified by the Department of Labor accept GI benefits, and that too often veterans aren’t even aware their GI benefits can go toward high-skilled training programs,” Slotkin said. “Today, we’re passing legislation that closes those gaps and makes our system work better for veterans. Senator Peters has championed this legislation in the Senate, and I couldn’t be more proud to have supported his efforts to push it over the finish line in the House and to the President’s desk.”

“Returning service members should have every opportunity to gain access to the programs that can help them use their unique skill sets to earn good-paying jobs,” said Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Congresswoman Slotkin was a great partner. Her leadership was instrumental in securing passage of my bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives, and I look forward to more of our nation’s heroes being able to use the benefits they’ve earned to secure quality apprenticeships after the President signs it into law.

“Twenty-six years ago I was able to use my Montgomery GI Bill to enter a registered apprenticeship and become a union sheet metal worker,” said Rick Donovan, a veteran from Oakland County and state legislative officer for the Polish Legion of American Veterans Department of Michigan. “In using my GI Bill to enter this apprenticeship, I was able to receive a U.S. Department of Labor certificate for completion. This certificate not only provided me opportunity and employment with a meaningful wage and other benefits – but a chance to use this training along with my military training to further my education.

“With this bill going to the President’s desk to be signed into law, more veterans will know about apprenticeship opportunities and will be able to fill good-paying jobs,not only in the union building trades such as Helmets to Hardhats, but in other fields, from health care to IT and beyond,” Donovan added. “I want to thank Sen. Gary Peters and Rep. Elissa Slotkin for moving this bill through Congress and for their leadership on this bill. They both saw how expanding opportunities for veterans to use their various forms of the GI Bill, by having more employers available to apply to and access their earned benefits, would help veterans obtain meaningful employment across all sectors of our economy. To see a new law that could go into effect, after approaching lawmakers in my hometown who saw the potential of an idea – and then see how this idea gained bipartisan support – has been an incredible experience. I look forward to this bill helping more veterans succeed after their service to our country.”

The legislation will close that gap by taking three critical steps:

• New apprenticeship programs applying to register through the Department of Labor would need to provide a written assurance that they are aware of GI Bill assistance and are committed to taking the steps to enable veteran apprentices to access these benefits.

• Apprenticeships would need to factor the skills, training, and experiences gained through military service into where the veteran is placed in the program, which could mean a more advanced placement with higher apprentice wages.

• The Department of Labor would need to notify the VA of newly registered apprenticeship programs. This would enable the VA to be more proactive in outreach to registered programs not yet approved for GI Bill benefits.

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