November 19, 2019

Bipartisan Crapo, Duckworth Bill to Help National Labs Find Qualified Employees Passes Senate Committee

Legislation would address looming workforce shortages by improving workforce training

Washington, D.C. -- Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee unanimously today and will now be considered by the full Senate.  With many employees of our National Laboratories and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) retiring age, the DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act (Apprenticeships for Complete and Committed Employment for Specialized Skills) would establish apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs between the national laboratories and NNSA and universities, community colleges, local high schools and intermediaries.  Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico) sponsors companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The need for a qualified, educated workforce of skilled technicians in the field of nuclear energy continues to climb,” said Senator Crapo.  “The passage of the DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act out of Committee is a positive step toward helping fill these high-demand positions at the Idaho National Laboratory and other national labs.  I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Duckworth to get this legislation across the finish line.” 

“The skilled technicians working at our National Laboratories provide immense value and help make all of the Laboratories’ groundbreaking scientific discoveries possible,” said Senator Duckworth.  “I commend the committee for passing our bipartisan legislation and look forward to working with Senator Crapo to achieve Senate passage of our bill that would prepare the next generation of students to work at our National Laboratories and help ensure America remains at the forefront of technological innovation for generations to come.” 

Around 40-50 percent of the nuclear workforce is eligible to retire in next the five years in both the private and public sector, creating increased demand for skilled workers both with advanced degrees and with technical training.  S. 1739 would establish a 5-year grant program run by the DOE, in consultation with the Department of Labor, to facilitate the creation of apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to help fill critical nuclear energy jobs.  Grantee organizations would be required to cover at least 25 percent of the cost of the programs, and each grant would not exceed $500,000.  Programs that serve veterans, young people and individuals with barriers to employment would receive priority consideration in grant awarding.  

Senator Crapo has long supported efforts and policies at the federal level to ensure the research conducted at the Idaho National Lab continues to contribute to a diverse domestic energy portfolio and keeps the U.S. at the forefront of nuclear innovation.  Empowering a long-term, qualified workforce at INL remains critical to its ongoing success.