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Luján introduces jobs creation package

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján introduced a package of bills Tuesday designed to strengthen workforce development, modernize facilities at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, make community solar projects more affordable and make grants available for public libraries to develop maker spaces to create job opportunities for small communities.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján

“Some of these things I have worked on since I was elected to Congress,” said Luján, a Democrat who represents the 3rd Congressional District. “But gaps still exist. We need to prepare, train and collaborate for jobs that are available now and for jobs that are pushing the envelope such as microelectronics and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).”

He told the Journal he consulted with past and current directors at the national laboratories, educators, business and community leaders before the legislation was crafted. He said the workforce training legislation had a focus on institutions such as Northern New Mexico College, Santa Fe Community College and Central New Mexico Community College.

Legislation introduced by Luján includes:

The TechSMART Workforce Development Act, which would direct the Secretary of Labor to establish the TechSMART Workforce Development Program to provide competitive grants for technology-based job training and education programs that provide post-secondary and industry-recognized credentials.

It would support technology-based training in information technology, computer coding and cybersecurity, health care, advanced manufacturing, financial services and education services, promote apprenticeship programs and encourage partnerships with local and state institutions, veterans organizations and the Department of Defense.

The Community Solar Consumer Choice Act, which would allow members of a community to benefit from the energy produced by a shared solar array. It would work by allowing individuals and businesses to own or lease a portion of a third-party solar system, or purchase kilowatt-hour blocks of the renewable energy that the system generates.

It would expand existing grant, loan and financing programs for community solar at the Department of Energy and would assist states, local and tribal governments’ efforts to increase community solar projects by providing technical assistance, developing new funding models and using national laboratories to study community solar projects.

The Leveraging our National Labs to Develop Tomorrow’s Technology Leaders Act would leverage national labs to train and develop tech entrepreneurs. It would foster entrepreneurs by providing scientists and engineers with mentorship, access to lab facilities and expertise, professional development, and networking.

The National Lab Restoration and Modernization Act would restore and modernize the national labs as key parts of research and development infrastructure.

The Library Innovation Space Act would create a grant program through the Institute of Museum and Library Services that would promote the development of maker spaces at public libraries to support innovation, economic development and job creation, especially rural and underserved areas, It would authorize $10 million for each of fiscal years 2020 through 2024.

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