Skills a national priority on both sides of the aisle.

February 18, 2013

Last week, investments in skills for America’s workers were in the spotlight as two of America’s leaders—President Obama and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)—addressed the nation. Both committed to getting America’s workers retrained with the skills employers need. National Skills Coalition applauds both President Obama and Senator Rubio for their commitment to building the skills of our workforce for the high-growth, high-wage jobs of the 21st century.

In his address, President Obama continued his pledge from the campaign trail to retrain two million Americans to help them build new careers. He called for the expansion of manufacturing hubs to train new workers in the high-tech skills for the manufacturing jobs that are available. Getting millions of displaced workers—many of whom have been in the workforce for years—the skills for the jobs that have been going unfilled must be a focus for President Obama’s second term. The President must also commit to addressing the skill development needs of millions who are in low-skill, low-wage jobs or who have been disconnected from the labor force.

And the President can find support from both sides of the aisle. In Senator Rubio’s response, he recognized that for the country to prosper, we must invest in workers outside the traditional educational pathways by stating, “[t]oday’s students aren’t only 18-year-olds. They’re returning veterans. They’re single parents who decide to get the education they need to earn a decent wage. And they’re workers who have lost jobs that are never coming back and need to be retrained.”

The President and Senator Rubio must work together with Congress to advance the skills of our workers so they can obtain available jobs and so that employers can find the workers they need to expand and grow a stronger economy. To do that, Congress must stop disinvesting in workforce development and create a more integrated and better aligned system.

Since 2010, Congress has cut over $1 billion from federal workforce training programs, following an over 30 percent reduction in those programs since 2001. And now workers and businesses face additional across-the-board cuts in workforce training under the sequesters. America’s workers and employers have paid enough. The President has called for a halt in this disinvestment, and Congress should heed his call.

Programs that build the skills of America’s workers, including the Workforce Investment Act, are up for reauthorization this year. Congress has the opportunity to improve these programs, working with industry, community colleges, and other training providers to create a more integrated and better aligned system without further reductions in funding. Senator Rubio should work with his colleagues in the Senate to pass reauthorization legislation that will close the skills gap and train America’s workers for the jobs of today.

The National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with President Obama, Senator Rubio, and Congress to make the right investments to ensure that all of America’s workers have a shot at the middle class and employers can find the skilled workers they need.