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BREAKING NEWS

Senator’s stop touts students, sustainability

Ernst said she backs bipartisan efforts to promote jobs in the state’s sustainable energy industry, supports students entering sustainable fields

By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer | Apr 8, 2021

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst made a stop in Estherville Wednesday to tour the Iowa Lakes Community College’s Sustainable Energy Resources Technology (SERT) Building and the Windtest company that has an office in the SERT Building. The visit was limited to college personnel and members of the media due to precautions in the ongoing pandemic, and everyone in the building wore a mask.

The SERT Building houses a program designed to provide wind energy industry training and certification for students, as well as related programs in engineering technology, environmental studies, water quality technology, and other fields.

Senator Ernst helped lead the effort on the bipartisan Wind Workforce Modernization and Training Act–a key part of which was signed into law late last year–to promote wind workforce training opportunities for students, technical schools, and community colleges, like Iowa Lakes. She also recently helped put forward the bipartisan JOBS Act–or the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students Act–which will allow students to receive Pell Grants for short-term job training programs.

Senator Ernst said, “It’s critical we make important investments to support students and promote the tools and training for the next generation of technicians to continue the success we’ve seen in the wind energy industry in Iowa over the last few years–and I’m proud to support bipartisan efforts to do just that.”

Ernst has partnered with Senator Angus King (I-Maine) on the Wind Workforce Modernization and Training Act which would help incentivize and promote the development of wind power and wind jobs in Iowa and across the nation. Ernst successfully pushed to have the training grant component of the bill signed into law at the end of 2020 as part of the government funding bill. In addition to promoting wind workforce training for students, the full bill would facilitate the modernization of the current U.S. wind technician workforce and create career pathways for veterans to more easily enter the wind workforce through the creation of a veterans-focused jobs program, similar to the Solar Ready Vets program.

The JOBS Act is bipartisan legislation that would expand federal Pell Grant eligibility to include high-quality, short-term job training programs. Under current law, to receive federal Pell Grants students must participate in over 600 hours of instruction for at least 15 weeks. Many short-term training programs for high-demand, middle-skill jobs do not meet these requirements. This bill would change this requirement to be at least 150 hours over 8 weeks, allowing students to receive short-term certification for high-demand occupations in their area.

Wednesday’s visit was the 39th stop on Ernst’s 99-county tour of Iowa for 2021.