Senator Chuck Senator Schumer Offers Bill Based on NDN Proposal to Increase Workers' Skills through Free Computer Training

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) yesterday introduced a companion bill to one sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Larson (CT-01), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, that taps the resources of the nation's approximately 1,200 community colleges to offer free computer training to workers and others seeking to improve their IT skills.

The Community College Technology Access Act of 2009 – S. 1614 and H.R. 2060 - is based on a paper written in 2007 by NDN Globalization Initiative Chair Dr. Robert Shapiro, Tapping the Resources of America’s Community Colleges: A Modest Proposal to Provide Universal Computer Training. During the presidential campaign, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama endorsed the idea as part of his platform and, as President, recently announced the American Graduation Initiative, which includes a massive investment in the nation’s community college system.

As Shapiro wrote in his 2007 paper:

The typical community college computer lab is open and used by students 66.5 hours per week. These hours are highly concentrated in the daytime of weekdays, when most working people are on their jobs. Under our proposal, the federal government would provide grants to defray the costs of keeping these labs open and staffed by community college instructors an additional 30 hours each week, on evenings and weekends when these labs are generally closed or little-used. During those hours, any person would be able to walk in and receive instruction in computer-related skills, at no cost. We estimate that if two-thirds of community colleges participate, and each provides three instructors for 30 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, Congress could provide every worker in America access to IT training for about $125 million a year.

Said Schumer, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, "Anytime that we can increase opportunities for our workers to gain access to computers and IT training, we are investing in the future of our job market and our economy. Our community colleges play a critical role in workforce training, and this program will enable workers and students to access community college computer labs for free during times when they would otherwise go unused. I am proud to have introduced this legislation in the Senate to help brighten the future of our workers and our community colleges."

"In joining with Chairman Larson to sponsor this legislation, Senator Schumer has again shown that he understands the need to move aggressively to provide America's workers with the skills to succeed in the competitive U.S. and global economies, particularly during tough economic times," said Shapiro, a former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs. "The Community College Technology Access Act presents the country with a vision for helping every worker who wants to get ahead. Tens of millions of Americans entered our workforce before computers and the Internet became ubiquitous. Many of them now are in what could be their most productive and highest- earning years. Without access to information technology skills, however, many of them will never fulfill their potential or may find themselves trapped in dead-end jobs.  As non-wired employment becomes increasingly rare, Americans without solid IT skills will find themselves economically marginalized. This program can help millions more American workers thrive in our idea-based economy."

For more on NDN's efforts on worker skills and facility with the global communications network, visit our 21st century skills page.