TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Shirley K. Turner that would create a pilot program to provide training to women for high-wage, high-demand occupations was approved today by the Senate Labor Committee. The bill is aimed at promoting economic self-sufficiency of low-income women through increased participation in these fields.
“Given the large number of women entering the labor market, the need is especially urgent to expand employment opportunities for low-income and young women, and to adapt the skill levels and areas of expertise to the current technical demands of the market,” said Senator Rice. “This pilot program will provide the training and support to help open more doors for women in these fields and to career advancement.”
“Breaking into the traditional male-dominated fields is often difficult for women, and particularly low-income women, for a number of reasons including the specialized training required but also because of discrimination that can be associated with recruitment,” said Senator Turner. “We have to do more to remove barriers to entry into these high paying fields and to help more women access the resources necessary to gain traction and move up the ladder in these occupations.”
The bill (S2403) creates a Women’s Vocational Training Pilot Program within the Department of Labor. The program would provide women with education, training, and support for success in the workforce, specifically in nontraditional occupations, defined as a job sector or field where women account for 25 percent or less of those employed in the field. Nontraditional occupations span all major occupational groups including: architects, computer programmers, computer software and hardware engineers, detectives, chefs, barbers, clergy, engineers, computer and office machine repairers, construction and building inspectors, railroad conductors, machinists, truck drivers, fire fighters, aircraft pilots, and construction occupations, as well as certain occupations in the fields of customer service, health care, and tourism.
The pilot program would target women with family incomes below the local self-sufficiency standard, when available, or women in families with income of less than 200 percent of the poverty threshold. “Self-sufficiency standard” means a measure of how much income families need to cover their basic costs without subsidies, as determined or recognized by the State for an applicable local area.
Senator Rice is chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity and co-chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Policy Committee of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
“For those of us who come from a history of fighting for civil rights, economic justice, equal employment opportunity and fighting against racism, we believe that access to high-wage employment and high-skills jobs is a right of women from all diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds,” said Senator Rice. “We have an obligation as a state to improve outcomes for women and other minority groups in career and technical education programs that are non-traditional for their gender and will lead to high-skill and high-wage employment. This bill will help to do that, and is important as a matter of economic justice and equal employment opportunity.”
“These high-skill jobs pay significantly more than those traditionally held by women, and in today’s economy with increasingly more women leading households, it is vital that we provide increased opportunities for employment in these growing fields,” said Senator Turner. “This would mean a big step forward for that effort.”
The bill was approved by a vote of 5-0 and next heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.