Larsen: American WINGS act gives high school students STEM skills to soar

Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) introduced legislation to help U.S. high school students access in-demand jobs in growing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries.

The American Workforce Investment in Next Generation of Students (WINGS) Act establishes a six-year pathway for high school students through community college and into a registered apprenticeship, preparing them for well-paying jobs in state-identified high-skill, high-wage or in-demand industries.

“As the nation works to emerge from the pandemic, Congress must tell young people it will connect them with the STEM skills needed to compete and soar in the modern workforce,” said Larsen. “The American WINGS Act provides talented students with a runway to find well-paying jobs and drive long-term economic recovery and growth, enabling the U.S. workforce to win the global STEM competition.”

Original cosponsors of the American WINGS Act are Reps. Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Adam Smith (WA-09) and Jim Langevin (RI-02).

“Helping students engage in STEM education empowers them to get in on the economic opportunities that STEM industries — and careers — provide. I’m proud to support the WINGS Act, which will help more students gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in the workforce and supporting pathways to good-paying jobs,” said Kilmer.

“As our economy begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress should do all we can to encourage students to take advantage of available apprenticeship and career and technical education opportunities,” said Langevin, co-chair of the Congressional CTE Caucus. “By expanding apprenticeships and training programs, we are making progress towards closing the skills gap and growing our entire economy. I thank Rep. Larsen for his leadership on this critical issue.”

Specifically, the American WINGS Act:

• Directs the Secretary of Education, in consultation with Secretary of Labor, to award grants to ten partnerships among local educational agencies, community colleges and youth apprenticeship or labor-management training programs.

• Creates a six-year pilot initiative with a 2-2-2 pathway for students starting their junior year of high school, guiding them through community college and into an apprenticeship.

• Includes support to establish local employer consortia to identify in-demand skills and industries.

• Establishes a “career navigator” to help students find opportunities and help retain students from diverse backgrounds.

Washington state continues to be a leader in STEM with more than 290,000 students enrolled in CTE. The federal government expects STEM jobs to grow by 8% nationwide in the next decade. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 94% of apprentices nationwide who complete an apprenticeship retain a job, with an average annual salary of $70,000.

A long-time proponent of improving access to STEM education, Larsen also supports bipartisan legislation to invest more than $3.5 billion over the next five years to create nearly 1 million more apprenticeship opportunities nationwide.