WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown this week announced plans to reintroduce legislation he feels will give local communities more control over the type of job training their workers receive.
The Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success, or SECTORS, Act originally was introduced in 2008 as part of the Workforce Investment Act, a bill that Brown said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday “collapsed under its own weight.” SECTORS is designed to revamp the process of distributing federal workforce development dollars from a more one-size-fits-all approach to a system that targets specific workforce needs within individual communities.
The original bill in 2008 was developed after a series of town hall meetings and visits with development officials across the state.
“It’s a story I’ve heard time and time again throughout Ohio: biotech firms, high-tech manufacturers and small businesses are hiring for open positions, but can’t find the workers with the right skills to fill them,” Brown said. “A clusters-based job growth strategy for Ohio can help ensure our state’s economic competitiveness while reducing our unemployment rate. The SECTORS Act would enable Ohio industries like biotechnology, clean energy and advanced manufacturing to continue to grow and flourish.”
It would do that by encouraging businesses, workforce development boards, community colleges and other educational programs and labor leaders to come together and develop plans and request funding to address training needs that are specific to industry needs within the communities they serve. That, Brown said, increases the accountability of how federal job training funds are spent by making sure the job training provided in a community matches the available jobs within that community.
As an example of how a program under the act would work, Brown was joined on the call by Cincinnati native and Navy veteran Daniel Brewer, who had trouble finding a job upon his return from Afghanistan despite training in the military to work on military aircraft and high-grade machinery.
“I had a lot of training in the Navy as an aviation electronics technician, but I really had no idea how that translated to the civilian workforce,” Brewer said. “In February, I enrolled in the Get Skills to Work program at Cincinnati State (Community College) after hearing that GE was looking to hire 5,000 veterans over the next five years. After talkingwith these folks, I found that my technical skills learned in the Navy, as well as the knowledge I gained in the program, were a perfect fit for a career at GE. I am currently a test technician at the GE facility in Vandalia.”
Brown said there are about $250 million in federal job-training dollars presently being scattered across different programs. The change would rebuild this structure from the ground up, putting local entities more in charge of what their job training dollars do for their communities.
The proposal has earned the support of the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, National Skills Coalition, Ohio Workforce Coalition and Policy Matters Ohio. The United Way of Central Ohio also offered its endorsement.
“Sector strategies create partnerships between employees, education and training providers, workforce boards and community organizations to address the employee needs of growing industries,” the United Way said in a statement.