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ICYMI: Congress is Closing the Skills Gap

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August 16, 2018 | Jordan Dunn (202-225-3031) | comments

Lately, there's been no shortage of good news about the American economy. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the economy grow at its fastest pace in nearly four years. Then, we learned worker pay and benefits rose to the highest level in a decade. Retail sales are rising, worker productivity is the strongest it has been in three years, and let's not forget that we are experiencing near-record consumer confidence and record small business optimism.

In fact, right now our economy actually has more jobs available than job seekers. Congressman Ryan discussed this "new, sort of good" problem at a recent House Republican Leadership press conference after completing a tour of several manufacturing businesses: "One thing I heard about is the need for more workers and especially workers with the right skills…we have jobs, but we need workers with skills to fill those jobs."

This isn't just a problem facing businesses in the midwest. Congressman Ryan has heard about the need for workforce development across the country, including at countless visits to First District businesses. The bottom line is: our education system is not properly equipped to help people adjust to this changing economy.

That's why Republicans have been working hard to make sure Americans have the skills they need to fill the jobs of the 21st century. Just last month, the House passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which is a critical piece of our Better Way agenda. By enhancing skills training, refocusing programs on student outcomes, and providing funding and flexibility to promote career and technical education at a state level, this bipartisan bill takes tremendous steps to help close the skills gap, and is now the law of the land.

But the federal government doesn't move at the speed of our ever-changing workforce, and can't always regulate changes to prepare students for jobs in different regions across the country. That's why the respect for local solutions, like partnerships between companies and local schools, is now more pressing than ever.

For example, take the partnership between Foxconn and Gateway Technical College. In his address to The Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Congressman Ryan discussed their shared efforts to develop a special curriculum designed to ensure workers have the skills Foxconn needs for the thousands of good-paying, high-skilled jobs they will create. Gateway Technical College is even building a new campus right next to Foxconn to train this workforce.

This isn't the only example of these types of partnerships in Wisconsin's First District. Last year, the congressman toured Allis-Roller to learn about how they support local education initiatives and help high school and college students gain the skills they need to benefit in future manufacturing careers. He also visited New Berlin High School's career learning facilities designed to prepare students to be "lifelong learners," in addition to Elkhorn Area High School's Technical Education Department, where he met with students and instructors to learn how they use training and equipment to prepare students for manufacturing and trade careers.

These are just a few of the many businesses and schools coming up with innovative ideas to tackle this issue head on. We can't expect to fix 21st-century problems with 20th-century tools, and with recently expanded resources for these programs, this is exactly the kind of work we hope to see more of across Wisconsin, and the country. Workers are better off now because of House Republican policies, and with all this good economic news, there's no better time to ensure Americans have the skills they need to climb the ladder of opportunity.

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