The federal funding cuts known as sequestration have dropped out of the news for the most part. But new numbers about the continuing mismatch between employers’ needs and job applicants’ qualifications are a reminder that job training programs are among the victims of the across-the-board cutbacks.
Forbes magazine reports that Ohio is 10th among states with the biggest shortage of in-demand skilled labor. A CareerBuilder survey finds that one-third of hiring managers have kept jobs open for at least three months, for lack of qualified applicants, including in technology-related industries, health care and sales.
Republican Gov. John Kasich has been trying to address this issue by encouraging regional partnerships among Ohio employers and institutions of higher learning to design job-training programs. Key to his plan is seeking commitments from companies to hire the men and women who complete programs at these colleges and universities. His focus is not just on high-tech industries; he started the project by soliciting commitments from insurance companies.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is building on that same strategy with a new bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, called the SECTORS Act of 2013 (Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success). It would, among other things, award federal grants to “sector partnerships among institutions of higher education, industry, organized labor, and workforce boards.” These coalitions would “create customized solutions for specific industries at the regional level.”
Though the economy-damaging mismatch between employers and job applicants has continued for years, and has been made worse by the recession and sequestration, it is one sign of hope that solving the problem is a shared goal of both political parties.
If a broken Congress wants to fix itself, it can start by taking up the Brown-Collins bill.