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Crapo, Duckworth Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Maintain a Long-Term, Qualified Workforce at National Labs

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) have introduced the bipartisan Department of Energy (DOE) National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act (Apprenticeships for Complete and Committed Employment for Specialized Skills), S. 1739, to address looming personnel shortages due to a rapid retirement-eligible workforce within the energy sector.  The DOE National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act would prepare the next generation of American workers to work at the country’s National Laboratories and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by ensuring they gain the training and skills needed to succeed.  

“The demand for a qualified, educated workforce of skilled technicians is increasing rapidly across the country and Idaho, and national laboratories like the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) are feeling the effects,” said Senator Crapo.  “Investments to train a new skilled workforce are needed to sustain the critical work of these labs and to provide well-paying jobs.  Senator Duckworth’s and my DOE National Labs Jobs ACCES Act would help fill these high-demand positions at INL and other national labs by supporting apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, with a particular eye toward programs that serve veterans, young people and individuals with barriers to employment.” 

“The skilled technicians that work at our National Laboratories represent the best among us, dedicating their expertise to helping solve the world’s most pressing problems,” said Senator Duckworth.  “I’m proud to partner with Senator Crapo on this bipartisan legislation to prepare the next generation of students to work at our National Laboratories, helping 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. 

U.S. Representative Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico) has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Full text of the bill is available HERE.  A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE, and a section-by-section summary is available HERE.