Senator John Hoeven today helped kick off a new round of UpskillingND, a collaboration between the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS), Microsoft and TrainND Southeast to provide free technical training and certification to those whose careers have been disrupted due to COVID-19. NDSCS received a federal grant of $50,000 made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act, with matching funds being provided by Microsoft, to establish the program, which launched last month and will provide free courses to four cohorts of students through March 31, 2021.\

During his remarks, the senator recognized the program’s participants for seizing this opportunity to pursue a career in the state’s rapidly growing technology sector. Hoeven highlighted his efforts both as governor and a U.S. Senator to position the Red River Valley as a nationally-recognized hub for tech entrepreneurship, leading to new opportunities for growth both in emerging industries like unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and mobile technologies, as well as the state’s primary industries of agriculture and energy. To this end, Hoeven is working to:

  • Support the success of the state’s tech entrepreneurs.
  • Expand access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and promote college affordability.
  • Invest in broadband infrastructure to advance the implementation of new technologies, like precision agriculture.

“Our state needs hard-working, motivated individuals to support the growth of our state’s tech sector, and while our nation continues to combat this pandemic, we appreciate the efforts of NDSCS, Microsoft and TrainND to provide this opportunity for technical training to those who are driven to pursue such a career,” said Hoeven. “This will not only help reduce the economic impacts of COVID-19 in the near-term, it will help build on our long-standing efforts to establish the Red River Valley as a hub of tech entrepreneurship, which serves as the third wave in our state’s economic growth.”

Supporting Tech Entrepreneurship

Hoeven is advancing measures like the Support Our Start-Ups Act, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to enable entrepreneurs to deduct more of the start-up costs for their business and invest more into their operations sooner. The senator also helped introduce the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act. This bipartisan bill would make portable benefits more accessible for entrepreneurs and provide greater certainty for them and their families. 

Promoting STEM Education & College Affordability

The senator cosponsored legislation that was signed into law this year to support veterans as they pursue STEM careers by making them eligible for National Science Foundation (NSF) programs and directing the agency to enhance outreach to veterans. A similar Hoeven-cosponsored measure was signed into law last year to expand NSF STEM initiatives to young children and increase their interest in these fields at an earlier age. 

In addition to his STEM-specific efforts, Hoeven is cosponsoring the following measures to improve college affordability:

  • Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which would allow employers to provide tax-free student loan repayment up to $5,250 per year.
  • Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, a bill to extend Pell grant eligibility to students pursuing high-quality, shorter-term job training programs that meet regional workforce needs.

Investing in Rural Broadband

In addition, Hoeven has worked as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee to secure $1.7 billion across fiscal years 2018-2020 for the ReConnect Program, a rural broadband loan and grant pilot program. The senator also cosponsored:

  • The Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, which passed as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, to ensure adequate broadband access in rural areas.
  • The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which was signed into law in March, to improve federal broadband mapping.