Washington, D.C. - Today, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, held a hearing that focused on how best to help America's workforce build the skills they will need for new, emerging jobs in manufacturing.
“A 2011 survey by ManpowerGroup found that more than half – 52 percent of companies – are having difficulty filling mission-critical positions. At a time when the unemployment rate is above 9 percent and many U.S. families are struggling to make ends meet, it is clear more action is needed,” said Chairman Casey. “We need to equip our workers with the skills they need to find jobs and we need to ensure that employers are able to find the skilled employees they need to operate and expand their businesses. Strengthening job training is critical to strengthening middle-income families.”
During the hearing, Dr. Harry Holzer, Professor of Public Policy, Georgetown University, pointed to Pennsylvania as one of the leaders among states that have made “enormous strides in tying their education and workforce systems to industry demand… A major new competitive grants program to fund such state activities, perhaps modeled in some ways on the Race to the Top fund in education, could be enormously helpful in encouraging more states to develop well-integrated education and workforce systems along these lines.”
Senator Casey and Mr. Ronald D. Painter later discussed examples of successful partnerships and pilot programs in Pennsylvania, such as the grant given to Westmoreland Community College (click here for video of the exchange).
"I constantly hear from manufacturers in my district, which has a long and proud history of small manufacturers, that they are having an increasingly difficult time finding qualified workers. This is true for all types of manufacturing – from steel to nanotechnology. If there is no qualified worker, there is no new job," Congressman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) testified before the committee. “This dynamic creates the need for a two-pronged approach to worker training and workforce development: one that is focused on improving our K-12 education system so that students have the necessary basic skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and the other focused on post-high school training and retraining that improves the skill sets of workers.”
Mr. Painter, CEO of the National Association of Workforce Investment Boards, emphasized the need to continue federal investment in addressing the mismatch between the skills needs of employers and current skills of our workforce. Mr. Painter urged Congress to strengthen the Workforce Investment Act when it takes up WIA reauthorization in the coming months: “WIA was enacted in 1998 in a very different economy and we recognize that it is in need of updating to factor in not only the significant changes in the economy, changes in the occupations we have, anticipation of occupations or emerging jobs and skills and to incorporate lessons that we’ve learned over the 12 years at WIA. Funding for WIA is also a deep concern. These programs should be seen as investments in our human capital, critical to getting people back to work and rebuilding our economy.”
Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, which is expected to be considered by Congress this year, provides an important opportunity to modernize and reform federal workforce training programs to make them more efficient and successful. Multiple, targeted programs are required to provide workers with the education and skills needed to compete in today’s global economy. Additionally, Senator Casey emphasized the need to extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, operated through the Department of Labor, which provides job training to workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign trade. In June, Casey introduced legislation that would extend TAA for five years.
Casey continued, "TAA works. It helps workers whose jobs have moved overseas build new skills and get back on their feet. Congress needs to pass Trade Adjustment Assistance before it considers additional trade agreements.”
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