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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

Contact: Press Office (202) 226-9440
Heard Around the Country: Skills Gap Presents Major Barrier to Employment
Republicans advancing proposal to strengthen the nation's workforce development system

According to the most recent information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12.6 million Americans are searching for work, yet 3.5 million jobs remain unfilled. The math doesn’t add up. A closer look at the nation’s workforce reveals an underlying problem: Employers have job openings, but they cannot find enough skilled workers.

News reports confirm this phenomenon. In Pennsylvania, the skills gap is prevalent in the manufacturing industry. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes:

“Manufacturing jobs are already going unfilled. The research affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers said last year that 67 percent of the 1,100-plus manufacturers it surveyed reported a moderate to severe shortage of skilled workers. More than half expected the problem to grow worse over the next three to five years.”

Arizona employers are facing a shortage of experienced workers in health care, technology, and business services. According to the Arizona Central:

“Although the state unemployment rate is 8.7 percent and nearly 262,000 Arizonans are actively looking for jobs, some employers say that they have trouble finding qualified job candidates…Workforce experts call it a job-skills mismatch: The people who want work don't always have the skills that employers are looking for.”

States in the Midwest also face similar challenges. Lucas Haire, Economic Director for Canal Winchester in Ohio, recently said:

“We’re going out asking 'Are you hiring?' and 'What type of skills do employees potentially
need?' Companies are being very candid, saying they need x, y and z skills, and they can't find them."

As Buckley Brickman, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, told the Wisconsin State Journal:

"The fact that we have around 7 percent unemployment in the state and yet we have hundreds of open manufacturing jobs where (employers) can't find people with the right skills — it's that mismatch that's pretty frustrating to manufacturers and anybody who is really focusing in on how do we create more jobs in Wisconsin.”

These anecdotes illustrate employers are ready to hire, and with the right education and training, more workers could be matched with job opportunities.

To help put Americans back to work, House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans are advancing the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012 (H.R. 4297). This commonsense legislation will strengthen federal job training and employment support by:

  • Expanding the role of employers on local workforce investment boards so they can
    implement training programs that meet their needs – a partnership that will give
    workers the opportunity to pursue skills that translate to available jobs.
      
  • Offering increased flexibility to state and local workforce development leaders so training is focused on the unique needs of local communities. If Arizona requires more skilled health care workers, state and local leaders will be better equipped to tailor programs to meet that demand. Likewise, the legislation will enhance the ability of local workforce boards in Pennsylvania to structure their programs to train workers to join the manufacturing industry.
      
  • Consolidating and eliminating dozens of redundant job training programs and establishing one flexible Workforce Investment Fund, ensuring taxpayer dollars are not spent maintaining an inefficient bureaucracy but instead put toward supporting employers and job seekers.

Preparing today’s workforce for in-demand jobs is a key component in the fight to rebuild our economy. To learn more about the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012, click here.

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