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DesJarlais Statement: Field Hearing on "Reviving our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development"
As prepared for delivery.

Good morning and thank you to Columbia State Community College for having us today. Thanks also to our distinguished panels of witnesses and the audience for their interest in getting Tennesseans back to work.

America is facing historically tough economic challenges, and the 4th district has been hit especially hard. In the face of these challenges, we need to rethink how we educate our workforce, especially regarding the role the federal government should play.

Through this hearing, we hope to learn about the economic needs of our business community. Employers need a workforce that is flexible, responsive and highly skilled. To this end, colleges and universities need the freedom to adapt to the ever changing needs of local businesses.

We all know that central Tennessee has experienced the closure of many coal mines and the loss of factory jobs.  And of course, like the rest of the country, we are still recovering from the recession.  Unemployment in the 4th district remains well above the national average.  Here in Maury County, unemployment sits at 14.2 percent.

We can and we must change this. The district is blessed with many colleges and universities that are partnering with local businesses in an effort to produce workers that meet the needs of the private sector – we must continue to encourage these sorts of partnerships. In fact, right here at Columbia State Community College, partnerships exist between the school and private industries including in the film and medical industries. Also, Columbia State’s Center for Economic and Workforce Development works with the local community and businesses provide Tennessee workers with the types of technical skills and job training they need to excel in the 21st century economy.

One of my top priorities in congress is to ensure that our young people and non-traditional students have access to an affordable and internationally competitive education. I look forward to hearing from our distinguished panels of witnesses as they give their local perspective on education and workforce issues.