Introduction of Bill to Bridge Workforce Skills Gap, Prepare Students for 21st Century Workforce

Press Release

Date: Dec. 6, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) today introduced legislation to bridge the growing workforce skills gap that exists between employers looking to hire and job-seekers searching for employment.

Pryor and Wicker believe building up private-public partnerships to train students in high-skilled industries will better equip them to enter or reenter the 21st Century workforce. The Workforce Innovation for New Jobs and Applied Education Act (WIN Jobs) establishes a competitive grant program for consortiums made up of businesses, colleges and workforce development boards to implement career path training, skill certification and on-the-job training programs. Second, the legislation strengthens the Department of Labor's Registered Apprenticeship program, and adds a new emphasis on emerging industries such as engineering, communications, healthcare, information technology, green technology, energy and disaster preparedness. Third, the legislation provides for a payroll tax credit for participating businesses, as well as a tuition assistance tax deduction if a participating company helps cover tuition for an employee while he or she attends college.

"If we want to see robust economic growth, today's students and workers need the skills, knowledge and experience relevant to an evolving workforce. This can be done, in part, by encouraging our business leaders and colleges to provide learning opportunities outside the classroom," Pryor said. "In Arkansas, we've seen successful partnerships in the aerospace, energy and technology sectors. This bill will build on that success by ensuring more students are better prepared to participate, innovate and compete the day they graduate."

"American workers must meet the demands of a rapidly changing global economy," said Wicker. "Bringing about a lasting economic recovery depends on matching workers' skills to job opportunities. This bill would promote the cooperation we need between public and private efforts to help people train for long-lasting careers."

Pryor added that creating a more competitive workforce is part of his Six-Point Solution to Job Creation.