WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) announced their introduction of S.4677, the STEM Restoring Employment Skills through Targeted Assistance, Re-entry, and Training (RESTART) Act. This bipartisan legislation would provide funding to small and medium-sized STEM businesses to offer robust, paid, mid-career internships, known as “returnships” for mid-career workers seeking to return or transition into the STEM workforce.

“Nevada is home to countless innovators, entrepreneurs, and forward-thinking small business owners,” said Senator Rosen. “However, particularly during our current economic crisis, we must do more to break down the barriers that too many workers face when re-entering or transitioning into the STEM workforce. This bipartisan legislation would create a new national program to support our mid-careers workers by funding mid-level returnships to provide the professional development and support they need to transition back to work in the STEM industry or enter a good-paying STEM field for the first time. This bill will also help bridge the gap between workers who are underrepresented in STEM fields and small businesses looking for qualified talent. I will continue working in Congress to develop forward-thinking solutions that support our workforce and small business community during this crisis.”

“There are any number of reasons many talented people, particularly women, leave their careers for a period of time. We’re proposing a program to aid reentry into the workforce for underrepresented individuals with STEM-related skills. Our measure would help fulfill a need for qualified workers in small and mid-sized businesses that are driving STEM job growth,” said Senator Hyde-Smith. “I think this is a smart solution to help get people back to work, increase the financial standing of many families, and boost economic activity in growing states like Mississippi.”

“Economic growth depends on having workers who are trained with in-demand skills, especially in the growing STEM industry sectors,” said Mary Beth Sewald, President and CEO of the Vegas Chamber. “As our community focuses on retraining displaced workers for new careers, the STEM Restart Act would be a tremendous resource to connect newly trained professionals in STEM fields with an opportunity to gain invaluable work experience to help them build new careers.  The Vegas Chamber applauds Senator Rosen’s dedication to worker retraining with the introduction of this meaningful piece of legislation.”

“The Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce stands behind Senator Rosen’s efforts to assist small businesses, redeploy the unemployed and underemployed, and respond to the overwhelming need our members have to fill in-demand jobs in diverse industries,” said Ann Silver, CEO of The Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce. “Our return to a robust economy depends on stimulating commerce and reaching out to residents who have the desire to be part of our recovery.”

“As an organization focused on empowering Nevada’s Latino workforce with the tools needed to succeed, we couldn’t be prouder to support Senator Rosen’s bipartisan STEM RESTART Act,” said Peter Guzman, President of the Latin Chamber of Commerce. “This bill addresses the real need to provide support to workers looking to enter the STEM workforce for the first time, or re-entering again after a break in their career, and will greatly benefit the Las Vegas community. We applaud Senator Rosen for her leadership in this space and for introducing this important piece of legislation.”

“As a STEM graduate myself in Civil Engineering who is part of a historically underrepresented group, I applaud and appreciate Senator Rosen for sponsoring this bipartisan STEM Restart Act legislation,” said Ken Evans, President of the Las Vegas Urban Chamber of Commerce. “Innovative legislation of this type that leads to diversification of our Nevada economy into new and emerging sectors while ensuring that diversity and inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups is a priority is very much supported and welcomed by our Urban Chamber membership.”

“Senator Rosen has always been a leader in workforce and economic development,” said Jaime Cruz, Executive Director of Workforce Connections, the Local Workforce Development Board in Southern Nevada. “The bipartisan bill is pivotal in our fast-changing economy as it provides funding through WIOA for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as supports individuals who re-enter or transition into the STEM workforce.  Prioritizing funding for unemployed workers, underrepresented populations, including women, people of color, and individuals from rural areas will continue to allow our community to be positioned for success and ensure resiliency for our economy and community.”

 “The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has long supported return to work programs such as the STEM Reentry Task Force and iReLaunch that help lessen the gap between women who are capable of relaunching their careers but lack access to return to the STEM workforce. SWE knows that although over ninety percent of women STEM professionals who have to leave the workforce wish to return, only forty percent are able to do so,” said Karen Horting, Executive Director and CEO of the Society of Women Engineers. “Therefore, we applaud Sens. Rosen and Hyde-Smith for introducing the STEM RESTART Act, which recognizes the successes of existing “returnship” programs that hire on eighty-six percent of participants at large companies closing the STEM opportunity gap while creating quality jobs. By providing federal backing, the STEM RESTART Act helps small businesses looking for qualified talent do likewise to restore America’s bench of STEM talent. These professionals have skills and knowledge that contribute to the success of the companies that host these programs and the health of the country’s economy. Current economic circumstances need initiatives like this one, and we look forward to supporting efforts to get this legislation to the president’s desk.”

“SIA strongly supports the introduction of the STEM RESTART Act and we commend Senator Rosen for her bipartisan leadership in introducing this important legislation,” said Don Erickson, CEO of the Security Industry Association (SIA). “SIA applauds the bill’s intent to encourage small- and medium-sized businesses to attract more diverse talent in the STEM fields. We believe diversity and inclusion have the power to help our industry advance, to help bring in the best talent and to recognize new ideas brought in by diverse perspectives. We firmly believe the STEM RESTART Act will help accomplish our goals in cultivating a more diverse workforce.”

"We applaud Sen. Rosen and Sen. Hyde-Smith for introducing the STEM RESTART Act,” said Benjamin Corb, Public Affairs Director of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “Women's careers have disproportionately suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic compared to men and this legislation would help women scientists return to the STEM field. We urge members of Congress to support this important legislation to bolster American science."

“We are delighted at the bipartisan leadership of Sen. Rosen and Sen. Hyde-Smith in introducing the STEM RESTART Act.  Our country needs to get more people back to work in high-paying STEM jobs and this bill boosts those efforts by promoting the novel practice of “returnships”, whereby industry can provide a supportive pathway for STEM professionals to re-enter the workforce after an extended absence,” said James Brown, Executive Director of the STEM Education Coalition. “The bill would prioritize federal funding to target individuals that are out of work or underemployed and who are also persons who are also part of historically underrepresented groups in STEM, including women, Black and Latino persons.  This is a very creative way to help solve an important STEM education challenge.”

“Our research shows that women voluntarily leave the tech workforce at a higher rate than their male counterparts,” said Brenda Darden Wilkerson, CEO of AnitaB.org. “As an organization dedicated to gender equity within the technical industry, AnitaB.org proudly advocates for opportunities for women to reenter their careers, provide for their families, and contribute valuable innovations to our economy. The bipartisan STEM RESTART Act represents a great step forward for the thousands of individuals who are looking to return to the workforce during this time, and we thank Senators Rosen and Hyde-Smith for their leadership on this important topic.”

BACKGROUND: The bipartisan RESTART Act (S.4677) prioritizes funding for robust, paid, mid-career internships, known as “returnships,” for workers from underrepresented populations and rural areas. Studies show that mid-career internships or “returnships” are an effective way to address the difficulties of former STEM employees seeking to return to work to in-demand industry sectors.

These programs provide a probationary period and opportunities to obtain mentorship, professional development, and support as the participants transition back to work and advance in their career. “Returnships” allow an employer to base a hiring decision on actual work instead of just interviews and references. Many larger and Fortune 500 companies provide mid-career internships for returning technical professionals as an effort to close the gender gap and skills gap. However, studies show that small firms are more likely to develop emerging technologies than large firms, yet have access to fewer resources.

The Center for Talent Innovation’s research shows that while 93 percent of off-ramped women want to resume their careers, only 74 percent manage to get any kind of job at all and just 40 percent successfully return to work full-time. A Pew study found that 62 percent of Black STEM workers say they have faced discrimination in hiring or promotion at their jobs compared to just 13 percent of White STEM. There’s a hidden talent pool in women (and men) returning to work after a break, but their resumes are often overlooked due to large gaps in employment.

Specifically, the bipartisan STEM RESTART Act:

  • Provides Direct Funding for Organizations within Needed STEM Fields: Allocates $50 million per year in grant funding for small and medium-sized businesses to set up “returnships” for qualified talent within in-demand industries within the STEM workforce.

 

  • Prioritizes Returnships for Underrepresented Populations to Close the Skills/Hiring Gap: Prioritizes funds for “returnships” for unemployed or underemployed persons who are also part of historically underrepresented groups in STEM, including women, Black and Latino persons, and individuals in rural communities.

 

  • Ensures Accountability: Requires any grant-funded “returnship” to last at least 10 weeks and include assurances of how the program will build upon returning workers’ skills. Requires the Secretary of Labor to track and report to Congress on the use of funding by grantees. Also sets parameters for who can apply for grant funds and limits initial funding to five years.

 

  • Includes Flexibility for Local Needs: Allows small and medium-sized businesses within in-demand industries – as determined by WIOA standards and State and local workforce development strategies – to apply for grant funds. Also allows grantees to collaborate with other providers, including universities and nonprofit organizations, to provide the best “returnship” experience.

 

  • Protects Returning Workers from Exploitation: Ensures that returning workers must be provided payment and benefits equivalent to a grantee’s existing non-entry level employees. Allows for grant funds to be used for benefits and incentives, such as childcare and necessary travel or training expenses.

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