RealTime IT News

New Bill Proposes Tech Training Tax Credit

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) hopes to slow the technology offshoring trend with an initiative to provide up to an $8,000 tax credit for information and communications technology education and training expenses.

The credit can be used by both employed and unemployed workers, as well as employers.

Weller's Technology Retraining And Investment Now Act of 2004 (TRAIN) calls for the proposed tax credit to be applied to a broad range of programs, from vocational and/or private certification courses to related college expenses.

"Investment in computer education and information technology skills training is the best long-term solution to meet the shortage of skilled IT workers and keep technology-based jobs here in the United States," Weller said at a Capitol Hill press conference.

With less than six months remaining in the 108th Congress, Weller admitted his new legislation has little chance as a standalone measure, but he hopes to attach the bill in the form of an amendment to any number of bills still pending before Congress.

The most likely target Weller might try would be the Jumpstart Our Business Strength (JOBS) Act approved last week by the Senate. The companion bill in the House has not been approved.

"TRAIN is designed to help either the worker or the employer recover the cost of IT and computer skills training," said Weller. "If a worker seeking the opportunity for higher paying technology-based jobs invests in tuition to learn computer and information technology skills, TRAIN will give them a tax credit to reduce the cost."

The bill provides a tax credit for an amount equal to 50 percent of information and communications technology training program expenses incurred with the amount of expenses for any one individual not exceed $8,000 per year. The amount may increase to $10,000 in certain circumstances.

"This doesn't just cover the programmers. It also includes engineers, machinists, architects, call center workers and others who must continuously upgrade their skills to keep up with changes in technology and others who might want to learn a new skill for a different type of employment," Weller said.

Training program expenses include those paid or incurred in any information and communications technology education and training program, including course work, certification testing and other "expenses that are essential to assessing skill acquisition."

Weller said neither the cost of the bill nor the specific training programs to be covered by the legislation has been determined.

"TRAIN represents R&D for the American worker. Retraining and ongoing development of information and communications training skills across all sectors of our economy is a must, yet the tools that drive our knowledge-based economy are constantly evolving," Weller said.

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) appeared with Weller at the press conference to show its support for the bill.

"Businesses spend over $70 billion a year training employees, ensuring they have the skills needed to pump out the products and services the world desires," said Martin Bean, chair of CompTIA's U.S. public policy committee and COO of New Horizons Computer Learning Centers."

Bean added said information and communications technology skills are "today's raw materials, not unlike lumber, bricks and steel. They're the infrastructure America needs to keep the U.S. on top. Perpetuating a culture of updated and dynamic skill sets is the best way to stay employed, and, where displacements occur, reduce the time lost searching for the next job."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2012, nearly 22 million new jobs, such as in transportation, biotech, healthcare and communications, will be created in America. At the same time, however, a significant portion of the aging workforce will be retiring.

"The pipeline has to be primed now," said Bean. "American workers are no longer the presumptive leaders just because they're American. TRAIN will help Americans fill these jobs, many of which can and will be competed for by foreign [IT-skilled] laborers."