Connecting Job Seekers with Skills and Opportunity
Weekly Column from U.S. Senator Rob Portman
MEDIA CONTACT: Caitlin Conant | 202-224-5190
Washington, D.C. (September 26, 2014) – This Friday in Belmont County, I joined with Belmont College and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association to host an Energy Jobs and Career Fair. Over thirty companies participated, and people from all over Eastern Ohio had an opportunity to connect with employers looking to fill energy-related jobs. These companies are eager to find good workers with the skills they need to help expand their operations.
For many workers, though, that is the problem. They want to work. They have the drive and the desire to go out and find new jobs, but they don’t have the training and qualifications that employers are looking for. We call this problem the “skills gap.”
This skills gap is one reason that we have 320,000 Ohioans looking for a job at the same time there are over 160,000 job openings in our state. And until we do something about that skills gap, too many of our friends and neighbors are going to be left behind.
Most frustrating of all is that we have federal programs that are dedicated to providing the help workers need to get the skills employers want. In fact, we have dozens of them, spread over nine different federal departments, spending over $15 billion of our tax dollars every year. It is a complicated, often redundant and inefficient arrangement, one that means the unemployed aren’t getting the training they need while federal funds are being wasted.
The American people—and our nation’s employers and job seekers—deserve better. Fortunately, help is on the way. I worked with Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado, on bipartisan legislation called the CAREER Act that will improve our nation’s retraining programs, making them more effective and less inefficient. This issue cuts across party lines, and it is a testament to the importance of worker retraining that we were able to pass key provisions of our legislation. These provisions will create incentives that reward those job training providers whose programs produce measurable results in job placement and retention. They also reform training programs to match skills with the jobs available in the market.
But we aren’t stopping there. We also want to ensure that young people have access to the skills they need to ensure they can find a job when they graduate from school. I recently introduced the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act, which would provide a stream of federal funds for recruiting and training high quality CTE teachers at no additional cost to taxpayers.
These commonsense, bipartisan reforms will ensure federal funds are better spent, and they will help to bring down our stubbornly high unemployment rate. They will give employers the highly-skilled workforce they need to grow and expand. Most importantly, they will empower men and women from all over Ohio who want to build a better life for themselves and their families to take advantage of the good jobs that are waiting to be filled.
And more of those jobs are coming. A recent study found that the oil and natural gas industry is expected to create 1.3 million new jobs by 2030. These are good careers that support families and change lives. Now we just have to make sure Ohio is ready for them. That’s why, in addition to employers from across the oil and gas industry, a dozen training institutions also attended our jobs fair in Belmont. If jobs seekers don’t have the skills they need to take available jobs, these training institutions can help them get those skills.
Sometimes, getting a job is about more than providing opportunity; it’s also about helping the unemployed get the training and qualifications they need to take advantage of those opportunities. That is what the CAREER Act, the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act, and our jobs fair are all about.
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