CHARLESTON – Senate Bill 1, a bill that is designed to increase the availability of career education and workforce training throughout West Virginia, passed the West Virginia Senate by a vote of 34-0 Wednesday. This is the second consecutive year the bill has passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support.
The bill would create an Advanced Career Education (ACE) program that will be required to provide a curriculum that leads to an associate’s degree or advanced certification in a field that the West Virginia Department of Commerce has determined is an area of workforce need. In addition, it creates the West Virginia Invests Grant Program, which will provide recipients with a grant to cover the “last dollar in” of tuition at one of the state’s community and technical colleges if the student meets certain conditions including maintaining a minimum grade point average, completing a number of volunteer hours per semester, and passing a drug test. It also requires the student to live in West Virginia for two years after completing the program, or repay the grant back to the state.
“There are very few days where you absolutely get excited and know that what you have done in this legislative body will change the face and the trajectory of the economy of West Virginia and the lives of the people that this bill is intended to help,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael said. “This bill today, Senate Bill 1, provides ‘last dollar in’ for community and technical education for West Virginians. It provides for the employers of West Virginia a drug-free, trained workforce. And, it empowers our people of this state – in which we have low workforce participation and some of the lowest educational attainment levels in America. This bill addresses both of those issues and changes the face of West Virginia forever.”
Senate President Carmichael was joined by fellow Senators, members of the state’s business community, and Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Chancellor of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, to celebrate the passage of the bill, and to encourage the House of Delegates to support it to completion.
“Anyone who knows about the problems in West Virginia realizes our terribly low workforce participation rate is one of the biggest problems facing West Virginia right now, and this bill is a big step forward in addressing that,” Senate Minority Whip Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said. “I think that President Carmichael knows that his Democrat colleagues, when you’ve got an idea that’s going to push the state forward and we agree will help, we’re right there with him to help it forward. This is a big step forward for the state. I’m hopeful the House will follow our lead and pass the bill this year.”
Dr. Tucker said this bill will help students realize that the cost of community and technical college is not something that should scare them.
“I could not be more excited to be here today, and I thank each one of you for your votes today. It really is a big change for the state of West Virginia,” Dr. Tucker said. “Our community and technical colleges provide a world-class education across the state. Last year alone, they worked with 622 companies. We have almost 800,000 clock-hour trainings specifically developed for the companies. What we don’t have are people in seats. We don’t have that because they’re scared of the cost of going to college. This program will allow our students to know they can go to college, that it’s affordable, and that they can get a job at the end of the tunnel.”
The bill has been reported to the House for further action. Video of the passage of Senate Bill 1 is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeVe1SIXikg.