By Congressman Robert Pittenger
Did you know there are currently more than 6 million job openings nationwide? That’s the highest level since Washington started tracking this data in 2000.
Unfortunately, many of these jobs remain unfilled because of the current “skills gap” in our labor force. With a rapidly changing economy, too many otherwise capable students and workers haven’t received the right training for in-demand, 21st century jobs.
Part of the problem is that in Washington’s swamp, federal job training programs haven’t been updated in over a decade.
This week, we took steps to help drain the swamp by passing multiple, bipartisan pieces of legislation to address the skills gap and equip local workers to help grow the economy.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the Strengthening Career and Technical Training for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353), which modernizes how the federal government supports state and local career and technical education (CTE) programs.
Particularly important for our region is a specific provision to increase federal funding for job training in rural communities. As the Congressman for Lumberton, Wadesboro, Maxton, Hamlet, Hope Mills, Elizabethtown, and many vibrant rural communities, I understand the need for economic development in rural North Carolina. Developing a skilled labor force is absolutely critical to attracting businesses and new jobs.
Job training programs must also reflect advances in technology and the job market. Current law on CTE programs hasn’t been updated since 2006, or one year before the introduction of the iPhone. Key updates include:
- Increasing from 10 percent to 15 percent the amount of federal funds states can set aside to assist eligible students in rural communities.
- Providing states more flexibility to focus training programs on in-demand jobs.
- Focusing CTE funding on local needs by incorporating input from local educators, parents, students, workforce development boards, community leaders, and local businesses in the planning process. Currently, states negotiate their performance goals with Washington bureaucrats.
Altogether, these changes will give states and local communities the resources and flexibility they need to educate and prepare their students for the local job market.
To further assist low-income families and promote economic growth, the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed the Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act (H.R. 2842). This legislation connects low-income Americans looking for work with employers looking to fill one of those 6 million job openings.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a federal welfare program designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. Too often, however, this program falls short. The Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act will allow states to temporarily subsidize employment through TANF in exchange for other benefits. This creates a win-win-win. Employers will be able to offer jobs to those in need at a lower cost to their business. Americans on welfare will have new opportunities to get a job and gain valuable work experience. Over time, fewer Americans will need federal assistance.
What better way to achieve self-sufficiency than through job skills?
To reach our full potential as a country, we need each American to reach their full potential. The legislation we passed this week gives hardworking Americans the skills they need to find a good paying job and fulfill the American dream.
PARLIAMENTARY INTELLIGENCE-SECURITY FORUM
As Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, on Monday I hosted more than 100 members of Parliament and other officials from around the world for the 8th Parliamentary Intelligence-Security Forum, held this time in Riga, Latvia.
Our 8th forum brought together a diverse group of nations – including Egypt, Israel, and the Vatican – to discuss joint efforts to fight radical Islamic terrorism. In total, 28 countries heard from top financial crimes, cyber, Intelligence and other experts regarding collaborative efforts to help defeat Islamic jihad.
Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.