U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Lindsey Graham Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Students Develop Workforce Readiness Skills

WASHINGTON, D.C. [5/19/21]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bipartisan bill to help prepare young people for jobs and boost their economic potential. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act, also supported by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), would create partnerships between afterschool providers and businesses to help students develop essential workforce readiness skills—like critical thinking and decision making—and learn about different career paths.

Right now, many young people in Minnesota, South Carolina and across America are concerned about whether they have the skills necessary to secure a job in the future. This lack of adequate workforce readiness also leads to negative economic effects for employers, who often cite challenges in finding well-prepared talent as an obstacle to growth. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act would help solve this problem by supporting programs that allow youth to gain skills and connect them to real-life work experiences.

“I hear from young people about their hopes for the future, which include contributing to their communities and getting good jobs. And I hear from employers that they need help getting connected to great employees. That’s where afterschool and out-of-school time providers can play a role in helping young people gain skills and make connections to mentors, opportunities and local employers,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “My bipartisan bill would help support youth success by teaching young people about different career paths and workforce readiness skills.”

“Preparing our kids to successfully contribute to our economy helps keep America strong,” said Sen. Graham. “A well-educated, well-trained workforce is a key component to future economic development. This legislation is great news for South Carolina and an important investment in the future of our nation.”

“Moving our economy forward begins with one of our greatest assets – our hard-working, resilient young people,” said Sen. Collins. “This bipartisan bill would create meaningful partnerships between afterschool providers and businesses to help young people strengthen critical skills, explore different career paths, and prepare for a lifetime of success.”

“Young people deserve every opportunity to succeed, including more options to build workforce readiness,” said Sen. Wyden. “Allowing youngsters to gain critical thinking and decision making skills through partnerships with afterschool care providers and local businesses is a commonsense step to help bolster the economic success of the next generation. Not to mention local businesses will have their choice of the cream of the crop once the students enter the workforce. The Youth Workforce Readiness Act will help young Oregonians and youth around the country secure their bright futures.”

“The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities thanks Senator Smith for her commitment to changing the lives and future opportunities for the youth in our state and around the country,” said Terryl Brumm, CEO Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities. “This bill is an investment in a transformational and effective program model that will support achievement of essential skill-building starting at an early age when we at Boys & Girls Clubs know we can make a difference. Even throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen firsthand that providing a safe environment where young people are engaged and challenged to build and practice essential skills, ensures that they can reach their full potential and are well prepared to enter the workforce strengthening the economy today and into the future.”

The Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 will support programs that provide youth with:

  • Essential-skill development by embedding social-emotional through formal and informal learning experiences;
  • Career exploration through community-based business partnerships, including discovery opportunities, career assessments and planning into a variety of career paths;
  • Employability skills including interviewing, resume writing, financial literacy and credential/certification opportunities that help youth find their first job; and
  • Work-based learning opportunities to practice and apply skills in hands-on work environments through local community business partnerships. 

The House companion of the Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021 is led by Representatives Josh Harder (D-CA 10), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA 1), Mark Pocan (D-WI 02) and Lisa McClain (R-MI 10).

You can read a summary of the bill here.