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Local Innovation Key to Region's Economic Recovery
By Reps John Kline (R-MN) and Richard Hanna (R-NY); As published in the Utica Observer-Dispatch

It’s been said that Washington, D.C., is 10 square miles surrounded by reality. Too often, policymakers in our nation’s capital get caught up in the rhetoric and lose sight of the fact that ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

And right now, what the people want is jobs.

Americans are dealing with tough times. Unemployment remains about 9 percent and millions are out of work. National debt is skyrocketing, and the pace of our economic recovery is erratic at best. Immediate solutions are required, but we also must look to the future to ensure tomorrow’s workers can lead in a global economy and are better prepared to weather future economic downturns.

In order to develop lasting solutions to the challenges facing our nation, we must first understand the challenges confronting individual communities, in places such as Utica and Rome, right here in New York state. That’s why at 10 a.m. Tuesday, members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will gather in the Campus Center at the State University of New York Institute of Technology (SUNYIT) in Marcy to hear from local educators, business leaders, and public officials as part of a hearing titled “Reviving our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development.”

The statistics showing the correlation between employment levels and workers’ educational achievement tell us that education is a jobs issue. And as most people know, our education system is in trouble.

Unemployment among workers without a high school diploma now stands at just less than 16 percent — far more than the 8.9 percent national average. Those who have completed high school but have gone no further in their education have about a one in 10 chance of being unemployed. In comparison, the current unemployment rate among workers with at least a college degree is just 4.4 percent.

As we work to improve the nation’s education system and foster economic growth, the thoughts and insight provided by the panelists participating in this hearing will be invaluable. Education and our workforce are vital to America’s future economic success on an increasingly competitive world stage. Both areas require flexibility; they rely on constant innovation to keep pace with rapid changes.

In the 24th Congressional District, schools such as SUNYIT, Herkimer County Community College and Utica College are doing just that – adapting to the changing needs of our economy and leading the way with ground-breaking programs in the rapidly growing, high-tech field of cybersecurity.

These programs produce skilled graduates ready to renew the local economy and help move this community toward 21st century opportunities. The educators and entrepreneurs building these training programs and developing new businesses are to be admired, and we stand ready to learn what they see as the next wave of challenges and opportunities in America.

Washington cannot create jobs, but it can enact policies that foster an atmosphere that encourages creativity in our classrooms and promotes economic growth. We look forward to hearing from Utica leaders Tuesday about how we can work together – on the local, state, and federal levels – to reinvigorate the American spirit of innovation and prepare the students of today to succeed in the workforce of tomorrow.

As published in the Utica Observer-Dispatch

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