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Heinrich, Gardner Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Address Workforce Shortage In Tech Industry

CHANCE in Tech Act will help provide New Mexico workers from all backgrounds with the skills and knowledge they need to fill good-paying tech jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced the Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act to provide New Mexico workers from all backgrounds with the skills and knowledge they need to fill good-paying tech jobs.

Now more than ever before, the U.S. economy is dependent on the technology industry to create jobs and expand economic growth. In 2016 alone, the technology sector contributed more than $1 trillion to the U.S. economy, employed more than 7 million workers, and added more than 100,000 new jobs. Despite these impressive numbers, nationally, during any given 90-day period, there can be more than 500,000 tech job openings. In the fourth quarter of 2016, there were more than 2,000 tech occupation job openings in New Mexico. Additionally, as Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs prepare to fill over 5,000 vacancies, ensuring New Mexicans can compete for tech jobs is critical. The average tech industry wage in New Mexico is $85,200 a year, which is double the average state wage.

“As the technology sector continues to grow in New Mexico and across the country, we need to ensure that our students have the skills they need to compete for these high-paying jobs,” said Senator Heinrich. “By encouraging apprenticeship programs for the tech sector, we can continue to strengthen the STEM pipeline and help New Mexico develop its vibrant technology economy. This bill will connect students, training programs, and community colleges in New Mexico to the growing tech sector where jobs are opening up every day, and create a more prosperous future for our state.”

“As the technology sector begins to play an even larger role in our economy, it’s important our workforce has the necessary skills and training to perform these jobs,” said Senator Gardner. “The technology industry currently faces a workforce shortage and Congress must work together to address this problem. This bipartisan legislation is an innovative solution to address the workforce shortage and will result in more Coloradans and Americans across the country receiving the proper training to enter the technology industry. The next 100 years will be defined by our ability to compete in the technology sector and the CHANCE in Tech Act will help the United States remain the global leader in technological developments.”

The CHANCE in Tech Act would create public-private partnerships to serve as intermediaries between employers participating in registered apprenticeship programs, industry and training partners, and government entities. Each intermediary would assess and train potential apprentices, lessening the regulatory burden on participating employers by tracking success indicators and managing other reporting requirements. The proposal would also establish a program to recognize those high schools and community colleges providing exemplary IT training and counseling. Collectively, this legislation will help to better align workforce training with local and regional demands.

The bill was designed in partnership with the New Mexico Technology Council, which is an association of about 150 businesses in New Mexico’s technology business sector. Inspiration for the apprenticeship program came from the New Mexico Information Technology Apprenticeship Program (NMITAP). A branch of CNM Ingenuity, Inc., NMITAP is developing apprenticeships in high-quality, high-growth careers in information and health technology.

“New Mexico has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, yet companies in New Mexico are still struggling to find the skilled IT talent they need. Programs such as the New Mexico IT Apprenticeship Program, which has now been available in Central New Mexico for two years, are giving states the opportunity to reduce the overall skill gap, and begin to grow and develop their own local talent,” said Nyika Allen, President and CEO of New Mexico Technology Council. “We are excited to support the CHANCE in Tech Act, which would assist in the expansion of the IT Apprenticeship program to more parts of the state.”

“Given our success in establishing the first Registered Apprenticeship Program in Information Technology in New Mexico, we are excited about this bill helping to continue our work in improving New Mexican's access to better paying jobs, as well as assisting New Mexico employers in filling the skills gap in IT,” said Sue Buffington, Director of the New Mexico Information Technology Apprenticeship Program (NMITAP) at Central New Mexico Community College.

U.S. Representatives Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), and Mia Love (R-Utah) introduced the CHANCE in Tech Act in the House.

A copy of the bill is available here and a fact sheet is available here.