Bipartisan bill addresses skills gap in employment

Bipartisan bill addresses skills gap in employment

I commend Vindicator report- er Tom McParland on an excellent job highlighting how closing Ohio’s skills gap would help Mahoning Valley workers find jobs and capitalize on emerging industries (“Valley unions, schools trying to increase skilled laborers for oil, gas companies ” — Jan. 16, 2014).

It’s a story I’ve heard time and time again throughout Ohio: High-tech manufacturers, bio-tech firms, and small businesses are hiring for open positions but can’t find the workers with the right skills to fill them. Ohio, in fact, ranks 10th in the nation among states with the biggest looming skilled-labor shortages. Fortunately, we have the tools to create jobs and close our skills gap at the same time.

My bipartisan bill, the SECTORS Act, would address the disparity between high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers by providing grants for sector partnerships among institutions of higher education, industry, organized labor, and workforce boards. These partnerships would create customized solutions for specific industries at the regional level. This approach focuses on the dual goals of promoting the long-term competitiveness of industries while advancing worker employment opportunities. Finally, my bill wouldn’t add a dime to the budget because it would use existing Workforce Investment Act funds.

With too many still unable to find work, we should do all that we can to ensure that Valley workers are qualified to fill local jobs. Passing the SECTORS Act would help maintain the Valley’s economic competitiveness, reduce its unemployment rate and enable Ohio’s emerging industries to grow and flourish.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Washington, D.C.

The writer is the Democratic U.S. senator from Ohio.