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Congressional Testimony




Statement for the Record

September 24, 2009

Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin and members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for extending the invitation to address a series of bills before the Subcommittee intended to improve services to Veterans. With regard to those bills that solely concern programs that are administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Labor (DOL) respectfully defers to the VA.

In particular, I would like to address H.R. 2928, which amends title 38, United States Code, to allow registered apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training programs under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Program.

When Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis took office, she immediately established a strong vision for the Department of Labor — "good jobs for everyone." The Department's workforce programs have a critical role to play in realizing the Secretary's vision of good jobs by contributing to the following goals:

  • Increasing workers' incomes and narrowing wage and income inequality;
  • Ensuring skills and knowledge that prepare workers to succeed in a knowledge-based economy, including in high-growth and emerging industry sectors like "green" jobs;
  • Helping workers who are in low-wage jobs or out of the labor market find a path to middle class jobs; and
  • Helping middle-class families remain in the middle class.

These goals have important meaning for providing veterans and transitioning service members with the resources and services to succeed in the 21st century workforce, particularly given the economic challenges facing our nation.

The Department has a strong history of funding training and employment services for veterans. The Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) provides veterans and transitioning service members with the resources and services to succeed in the civilian workforce by maximizing their opportunities to obtain good jobs, protecting their employment rights, and meeting the demands of employers for skilled workers with qualified veterans.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) also works to provide training and employment services to veterans and eligible spouses through Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Wagner-Peyser funded activities; the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP); Indian and Native American Programs (INAP); National Farmworker Jobs Training Programs (NFJP); and the Trade Adjustment Assistance Programs (TAA).

Veterans or eligible spouses of veterans (covered persons) who are determined eligible for DOL-funded employment preparation programs receive priority over non-covered persons in the receipt of employment and training services. This means that a veteran or eligible spouse receives access to DOL-funded employment preparation programs earlier in time than non-covered persons, or instead of non-covered persons if resources are limited.

Registered apprenticeship programs, authorized by the National Apprenticeship Act, are also available to help veterans and are of particular relevance to the Subcommittee's consideration of H.R. 2928. Registered Apprenticeship programs, one of the nation's oldest, most effective and innovative workforce programs, can provide veterans critical career training, guaranteed incremental wages increases, and nationally recognized and portable certificates that lead to good jobs in many industries. This "earn and learn" model allows veterans to support themselves and their families while receiving the training and education they need to enter sustainable careers.

Upon completion of an apprenticeship, workers earn hourly wages and yearly salaries that can help them secure sustainable employment. Registered Apprenticeship has among the highest earnings for completers of any workforce or education program, as apprenticeship completers' yearly salaries have averaged almost $50,000 from 2004 to 2008. Today, almost 30,000 program sponsors representing 225,000 distinct employers offer registered apprenticeships in over 1,000 career areas, including advanced construction, manufacturing, health care, transportation, information technology, and emerging occupations such as green jobs.

The Department of Labor supports the intent of H.R. 2928 to amend the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Program to include registered apprenticeship and approved on-the-job training programs under this benefit. However, because the amendment concerns a program solely administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, we defer to VA on this new program.

In conclusion, the Department of Labor continues to work collaboratively with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and State Approving Agencies to implement title 38 benefit programs that provide registered apprenticeship and approved on-the-job training opportunities to veterans. Such opportunities allow veterans to receive education and training while supporting themselves and their families, and enable them to build on the skills gained during their military service to obtain good jobs in the civilian workforce. The Department is pleased to submit a statement for the record of this hearing, and is available to assist the Committee in any way it can as it continues to examine issues pertaining to economic opportunities for America's veterans. Again, thank you, and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.