Senate Democrats Host Meeting With Workforce Development Leaders

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Discussion focused on best practices for strengthening public/private partnerships that train Americans for the well-paying jobs of the 21st century and closing the skills gap

Washington, D.C. – Enhancing regional economic stability, creating partnerships between the public/private sectors, and providing workers with 21st century skills to compete in a global economy were the topics of a forum attended by 14 leaders in workforce development from across the country at the invitation of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee (DSOC). U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Chair of the DSOC, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Vice-Chair of the DSOC, and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Chair of Business Outreach for DSOC, hosted the meeting.

On the heels of last Friday’s positive jobs report, today’s meeting was part of ongoing efforts by Senate Democrats to seek local and innovative perspectives on both job creation and training. During the hour long discussion, members of the Senate Democratic caucus made clear their commitment to enacting legislation that supports these efforts, and helps put people back to work in a new and changing economy.

“Preparing our workers for an evolving and increasingly competitive job market is key to continuing our record of economic growth,”said Senator Begich. “I was pleased to have two guests from Alaska today who provided great insight about their unique and effective job training programs back home. As I always say, if it can work in Alaska, it can work anywhere. As we set our nation’s priorities in the coming weeks, we can all agree that when we focus on workforce development and job training, whether in a rural Alaskan community or urban hub, we strengthen our communities, grow our economies, and support our families.”

“A highly skilled workforce is absolutely essential to America remaining competitive in the global economy,” said Senator Coons. “Delaware is known for groundbreaking research that powers innovative new businesses and creates good-quality jobs, but we must have a workforce with the skills to fill them. This is why we must continue to invest in our students and train them in science, technology, engineering and math, which are key to the next generation of manufacturing jobs. School districts like Sussex Technical are among an increasing number around the country that are emphasizing STEM education and encouraging students to pursue their passions in these high-paying fields, so I’m glad Superintendent Lathbury was able to join us in Washington today to share his insights.”

Whether it’s low-wage working adults enrolling in community college, trade-impacted union workers re-training for a new occupation, or veterans re-entering the workforce  Senate Democrats recognize that a wide range of workers enter the labor market in different ways and with different needs. With over 3.6 million job openings, but a persistent deficit in the skill set of the American workforce that is keeping these positions from being filled, ideas to help bridge the skills gap were also addressed.

“We have a jobs problem in this country. But we also have a skills problem, when too many employers want to hire but cannot find skilled workers for available jobs,” said Andy Van Kleunen, Executive Director, National Skills Coalition. “Thankfully that’s a problem we can fix, and so this meeting on workforce training was an important step in the broader effort to get America back to work.”

“Taking action to find solutions to the growing skills mismatch is becoming a national priority,” said Siemens North America President Eric Spiegel. “This is one area where government and the private sector can and should find common ground and work together. By leveraging the power of the private sector and federal and state governments, we should be able to scale up workforce training programs that have proven to be effective and begin to solve the problem. I applaud the committee for focusing attention on this issue and arranging for stakeholders to offer solutions.”

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 is the primary federal program that supports workforce development. It is currently up for reauthorization, which has not been accomplished since FY2003. Since that time, WIA authorized appropriations have been carried out annually under the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

About the Senate Democratic Steering & Outreach Committee

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee is dedicated to fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and community leaders from across the nation. Each year, the Steering Committee hosts several meetings with advocates, policy experts, and elected officials to discuss key priorities and enlist their help in the development of the Democratic agenda in the Senate. We are committed to serving as a liaison between Senate Democratic offices and advocacy groups and intergovernmental organizations. The Steering Committee is one of three Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate. The Steering Committee is chaired by Senator Mark Begich (AK) and vice chaired by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH).

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