WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 9, 2013 -
Good morning, and welcome to the first field hearing of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training in the 113th Congress. It is good to be here in Michigan’s 7th District with my esteemed colleague Representative Walberg. Thank you all for joining us. I’d like to extend a special thanks to our witnesses. I know you all have busy schedules, and we are grateful that you are taking the time to share your valuable insight with us today.
Despite recent employment gains, these are still tough times for far too many Americans. Here in Michigan, the unemployment rate stands at 8.8 percent – higher than the national rate. Meanwhile, local job creators report they are unable to find workers with the skills necessary to compete for available jobs. This issue, called the “skills gap,” was the subject of a recent two day conference Governor Rick Snyder hosted with many of Michigan’s business, education, and government leaders.
Our nation’s economy is only as strong as its workforce. And right now, the federal system intended to help workers access the education and skills they need to succeed is broken. To support our workforce and tackle the skills gap problem, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation last month that will ensure workers have access to a more efficient and effective workforce development system. The legislation, known as the SKILLS Act, will eliminate waste and better align available education and workforce development programs with the needs of local employers and workers.
However, more must be done. In the coming months, the committee will begin its work to reform the nation’s higher education system. As part of that effort, my colleagues and I will discuss responsible reforms that will help provide institutions with additional flexibility so they can be more responsive to the needs of students, the community, and the local workforce. We must also work to eliminate federal mandates and red tape that raise costs for schools and prevent innovation.
As a former community college president and university administrator, I understand the importance of forging partnerships between businesses, communities, and institutions of higher education. When I was at Mayland Community College, I worked with business owners and community leaders to collaborate on ways we could better meet the needs of the local economy and workforce. Investing in those relationships helps ensure businesses have a skilled workforce while also providing opportunities for students to advance their education.
In addition to learning about the challenges and opportunities facing Michigan’s schools and workplaces, the committee is very interested to hear your take on federal policies that may be standing in the way of job creation. As we work to foster a growing economy, we must make sure Washington does not block the road to growth and prosperity. I hope we can have a productive discussion today on ways we can work together – at the local, state, and federal level – to help rebuild our economy and help support a more prosperous future for families here in Michigan and across the United States.
Again, we appreciate our panelists’ participation in today’s hearing, and I’m looking forward to getting this discussion underway. Let me also thank Mr. Walberg for his gracious invitation to hold a field hearing here in his district, and without objection, I now yield to him for his opening remarks.
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