WILKES-BARRE, PA | March 21, 2011
Thank you, Chairman Kline, for bringing the Committee on Education and the Workforce to Wilkes-Barre and for holding this important hearing today. I always appreciate the opportunity to hear from leading voices in our local community, and I am thrilled that Chairman Kline can share in this experience. The Committee has assembled an extraordinary panel of witnesses from our community’s business and higher education sectors, and I can assure you, Chairman Kline, that you will leave here today with a very clear picture of how Northeast, Pennsylvania is taking strides to revive our economy through quality higher education.
The fragile state of the economy remains a top concern for many in Pennsylvania, and the people who reside in Northeast, Pennsylvania understand better than most the difficulties we still face as we struggle with an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent – the highest level of unemployment in the state and higher than the current national average.
After years of tough economic times, it is clear we need smart solutions to get our economy moving again and people back to work. That is why we are here today. There is often more common sense on the corner of Main Street America than in all the halls of Congress. Listening to the concerns and ideas of the people we are elected to serve is a good place to begin putting the economy back on track.
We also must start with getting our fiscal house in order, here at home and in Washington D.C. For far too long, governments have over taxed, over spent, and over borrowed, and the time to address this crisis is long overdue. It is forcing entrepreneurs to the sidelines, undermining confidence in the economy, and ultimately destroying jobs. We have to make hard but responsible choices to rein in government spending and ease the burden being placed on our children.
I have been a resident of Northeast, Pennsylvania my whole life. I lived the dream of raising my children here, and I’m thankful that I get to see my grandson, Gabriel Louis, raised here as well. I know that is a dream many Pennsylvanians share. We face some pretty difficult challenges, but I am confident the people of this great state will lead us back to prosperity.
Critical to that effort are our institutions of higher learning. They help ensure that students and workers have the tools they need to succeed in the workplace. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor documents the close relationship between higher education and employment. Today, workers with a high school diploma have a nearly one in 10 chance of being unemployed, while their colleagues with a college degree have only a 4.3 percent chance of being unemployed.
Schools like Wilkes University, Empire Beauty School, and Lackawanna College offer diverse training and knowledge that individuals need to compete and succeed in the workforce. Business leaders such as Diamond Manufacturing understand firsthand the importance of locating workers with various skills that can be applied to a wide range of jobs. Business leaders, local officials, and institutions of higher learning all play a leading role in shaping the success of our economy.
The people of this community and great state have a great deal to share with this committee. They will ultimately lead our economy out of these tough times. I look forward to hearing their thoughts and ideas, and to ensuring policies in Washington do not stand in their way.