New Louisiana law aims to increase job opportunities
Proposed legislation, dubbed the Jumpstart Our Business by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, seeks to expand Louisiana’s Pell Grant Program for use in short-term job training programs that will lead to industry-based certifications. Currently Pell Grants cannot be used for most short-term job training. The act now awaits federal approval.
Louisiana Pell Grants only are available to low-income students for undergraduate or post-baccalaureate programs that include 300 hours of instructional time and last at least 16 weeks, according to Lafayette Parish’s newspaper, The Daily Advertiser. Introduced by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-New Orleans), the act seeks to expand availability of these grants, which do not have to be repaid, except when a student does not complete the program.
Louisiana offers 33 short-term job-training programs that do not meet current Pell Grant eligibility requirements, according to The Daily Advertiser. These include courses in nondestructive testing, commercial vehicle operation and instrument technician training. Most of these programs cost between $1,500 and $2,500 each.
“There are many people who are working at minimum-wage jobs who could benefit from this,” Landrieu told The Daily Advertiser. “The idea is to access money to move yourself from a small wage to a livable wage.”
Louisiana Delta Community College Chancellor Barbara Hanson told The News Star she believes the JOBS Act will help students develop the skills companies are looking for, and help them secure more meaningful employment.
“We have so many jobs here in the state waiting for them but for various reasons, some cannot afford this training and it’s out of their reach,” Hanson told the paper.
Louisiana has the 13th highest unemployment rate in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. “ We have more jobs that are available than there are qualified people to fill them,” Landrieu told The Daily Advertiser.