As our nation struggles to jumpstart the economy and address the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, 15 members of the House New Democrat Coalition have introduced legislation to help bolster U.S. competitiveness.  Last night the group introduced H.R. 5254, the Up-Skilling Tax Credit Act, to encourage employers to invest in their employees and H.R. 5255, a bill to establish a competitive grant program to promote further education and job training opportunities in the fields of math, science, engineering and technology.

Since August 2003, nearly 90 percent of the newly created U.S. jobs are in the lower paying service sector industry.  To promote the creation and retention of jobs in high tech, high wage and high growth industries, we must ensure that America’s workers have skills and training necessary to succeed in the jobs of the 21st Century.

H.R. 5254, the Up-Skilling Tax Credit Act, will promote a more highly skilled and productive workforce by giving an incentive to employers who provide valuable lifetime learning opportunities for their employees.  Specifically, the bill would:

-     Allow employers to use 20 percent of the costs of providing technical training to their employees as a credit against their income tax expenses. 

-     Eligible employers could receive a credit of up to $1,000 per employee per year over the next 5 years. 

-     Eligible training courses must lead to an industry-recognized license or certificate.   

H.R. 5255 would create a competitive grant program through the National Science Foundation for institutes of higher education working to implement innovative programs to encourage students to study and pursue careers in the high demand fields of math, science, engineering and technology.  Funding may be used for creating interdisciplinary programs in these fields or for research equipment, facilities construction, repair and upgrades, textbooks, and other purposes.  Under this legislation, schools will:

-     Provide financial incentives (such as scholarships and stipends) to students entering and persisting in the higher education study of math, science, engineering and technology

-     Expose students to different industries through internships, fellowships, part-time work and mentors to make students more aware of opportunities in these fields.

-     Aim to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented students in science, math, engineering and technology.

“We may not be able to anticipate the next bend in the economic road, but one thing stays constant - education opens doors,” said NDC co-chair Jim Davis (D-FL).  “The New Democrat Coalition recognizes that by improving access to education and on-the-job training, we can help America’s workers move up the career ladder and prevent unemployment before it occurs.”

NDC Co-Chair Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said, “we should increase investment in research and development, improve math and science education in K-12, enhance training and professional development for workers, open markets for American goods and renew the government’s focus on promoting innovation.  By doing so, we can make sure that our economy remains the most vibrant and competitive one in the world.”

“Unfortunately, the United States is currently falling behind other countries in the number and quality of math, science, and engineering graduates,” said NDC co-chair Ron Kind (D-WI).  “H.R. 5255 is meant to provide some of the crucial assistance needed to reverse this trend, and the Up-Skilling Tax Credit Act will help workers in these fields keep their skills up-to-date.”