Reps. Blunt Rochester, Walberg Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Build the Workforce of the Future
Washington, May 11, 2023 | Andrew Donnelly (302-893-4406)
WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), with Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), introduced the Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act, a bipartisan bill that creates a 5-year grant program at the Department of Labor to support community colleges and career and technical education centers in developing education and training programs for workforce development utilizing immersive technology including augmented and virtual reality.
“From my time as Delaware’s Secretary of Labor, Head of State Personnel, and CEO of the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, to my time in Congress, there’s been one word that has driven my work – jobs,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Future of Work Caucus. “People want to work and want to gain the necessary skills to do so. That’s why it’s critical that we increase access to education and training programs at community colleges and career and technical centers that are using or want to use immersive technology so that people are equipped to take on some of the most in-demand skill and trade jobs of today and jobs of the future. That’s why it was so important to me to include the Immersive Technology and Opportunity Act in my JOBS Agenda that I announced last month and why I’m equally as proud to officially introduce this bill with Rep. Walberg this Congress that will help us build the workforce of the future.”
“Across the country, businesses are struggling to find employees to meet the ever-growing demand in the skilled trades or technical fields,” said Rep. Walberg. “I am proud to work with Congresswoman Blunt Rochester to introduce this important legislation to ensure that Americans in rural and underserved areas can utilize immersive technologies to pursue career development and better access quality job training. Immersive technologies, including augmented and virtual reality tools, will lower training costs and improve safety while paving the way for individuals to pursue good-paying careers.”
“Emerging technologies, such as XR, can help meet people where they are and expand access to cutting-edge technology and training resources,” said Elizabeth Hyman, CEO of XRA. “Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester’s bill recognizes the importance of equitable access to skills training and workforce development programs and the key role immersive technology plays in delivering better outcomes.”
“Immersive learning technology can act as a flight simulator for nearly any job. It can help individuals experience careers before they pursue them; develop and repeatedly practice complex, infrequently used, or high-risk skills; and learn and work in new ways. For those people in rural areas or communities where in-person training opportunities may be scarce, immersive technology can serve as a bridge to economic opportunity. Community colleges are well-positioned to lead the adoption of this critical workforce development technology in their communities through the investment in XR-based training proposed in this legislation,” said Kristina Francis, Executive Director of JFFLabs, Jobs for the Future.
“Leveraging immersive technologies within workforce development programs is an innovative approach to enhance program accessibility and quality. The National Association of Workforce Boards is proud to support the Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act of 2023 and commends Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester’s and Representative Tim Walberg’s leadership modernizing the American workforce,” said Ronald Painter, CEO, National Association of Workforce Boards.
“American companies are using XR technologies, to attract and upskill their workforce, by providing more safe and effective employee training. As a company that has hands-on experience delivering solutions to both community colleges and commercial businesses, Oberon Technologies is proud to support this bill by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Rep. Tim Walberg which would expand access to quality job training using immersive technology,” said Vi Kellersohn, Chief Marketing Officer, Oberon Technologies.
"Unity fully supports the Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act and we appreciate Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Rep. Tim Walberg's leadership in creating new opportunities for economic advancement," said Jessica Lindl, VP Social Impact, Unity. "By 2030, immersive technologies - including virtual and augmented reality - have the potential to add $1.5 trillion to the global economy and transform over 23 million jobs. We encourage Congress to support America's community colleges by passing this bill to train the workforce and seize the massive opportunity ahead."
The Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act is one of seven bills that make up Blunt Rochester’s JOBS Agenda, a comprehensive package of bills designed to strengthen our workforce, address workforce shortages, build the workforce of the future, fix our broken supply chains, and create more available and affordable housing. Blunt Rochester is also the founder and a co-chair of the Bipartisan Future of Work Caucus with Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) where she works across the aisle to support American innovation through upskilling our workforce and finding creative solutions to ongoing workforce shortages.
At the start of 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 10.5 million unfilled jobs. Across industries, companies of every size are facing the challenge of finding a workforce ready to fill open positions. Bipartisan economic and national security initiatives need a workforce prepared and ready to step into a wide range of careers – and that starts with access to quality, effective workforce training programs. Immersive technology, including augmented and virtual reality tools, can expand access to workforce training to ensure American companies have the capacity to meet their workforce needs. The technology has the potential to make workforce training more cost effective, safer, and to expand access to rural and underserved areas and workers with disabilities.
The Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act would:
The Immersive Technology for the American Workforce Act is endorsed by XR Association, Advance CTE, American Association of Community Colleges, Association for Career and Technical Education, Elm Park Labs, HTC VIVE, Jobs for the Future, National Association of Workforce Boards, Oberon Technologies, Talespin, Transfr, Unity, and US Ignite.
Full text of the bill can be found here.
A one-pager on the bill can be found here.