WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following President Obama’s call for additional job training resources, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged passage of his Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act of 2013, bipartisan legislation that would help dislocated workers train for high-tech jobs in their region.
“I’ve heard from too many Ohio employers who have vacant jobs, but a shortage of applicants with the right skills to fill them. If we’re going to get our economy back on track, we need to ensure that local workers are training for high-tech, local jobs,” Brown said. “By partnering local employers in one industry with colleges, workforce board, and labor unions, we can ensure a clusters-based job growth strategy that improves Ohio’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.”
Due to new jobs and retirement, a recent report found that between 2008 and 2018 Ohio will create 967,000 job openings requiring postsecondary education or training. But according to Forbes, Ohio ranks 10th with the biggest looming skilled labor shortage in the country. By tailoring workforce development to the needs of regional, high-growth industries, more workers could receive placements and more businesses could be attracted to a region based on a “clusters” approach.
The SECTORS Act, which Brown introduced with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), would organize stakeholders connected to a regional industry, including business and labor leaders, education and training providers, and local workforce and education system administrators, to develop plans for growing that industry. Brown and Collins intend to work with colleagues to make the SECTORS Act part of the bipartisan Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization.
Additionally, the SECTORS Act would address the disparity between high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers for many emerging industries by providing grants for sector partnerships among institutions of higher education, industry, organized labor, and workforce boards. These partnerships would create customized solutions for specific industries at the regional level. A sector approach can focus on the dual goals of promoting the long-term competitiveness of industries and advancing employment opportunities for workers.
Brown first authored the bipartisan SECTORS Act in 2008, with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as the lead Senate sponsor and Patty Murray (D-WA) as a cosponsor. The SECTORS Act is currently endorsed by the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD), National Skills Coalition, National Network of Sector Partners, Ohio Workforce Commission (OWC), Policy Matters Ohio, Towards Employment, and United Way of Central Ohio.
Brown has traveled around Ohio to highlight how a SECTORS-style approach could help grow jobs in Ohio:
- In January 2012, during a visit to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Brown highlighted an industry-sector jobs program that has trained more than 400 unemployed Ohioans for jobs in the emerging bioscience industry. Brown, who helped secure federal resources to help fund worker training in Cincinnati, was joined by a formerly-underemployed worker who graduated from the program and now works at DG Medical in Centerville.
- In July 2010, Brown visited a clean energy jobs training site in Rossford to outline how a recent award of $5 million in new federal funds will help train workers for jobs in the clean energy industry. The Ohio GROWS (Green and Renewable Opportunities for Workers) project provides clean energy jobs training to nearly 1,300 workers at 19 sites across Ohio.
- In October 2010, Brown was in Zanesville to discuss workforce development plans related to clean energy technology with area college and university presidents and business leaders, convening a roundtable at Zane State College in Muskingum County.
- In October 2010, Brown also visited Dayton to meet with displaced auto workers participating in an advanced manufacturing class at Sinclair Community College. Workers in the program receive advanced manufacturing training at the school for a new career; the college’s advanced manufacturing curriculum is industry-driven and focused to prepare students for work in both large and small manufacturers.
- In April 2009, Brown met with displaced auto workers and leaders in the bioscience and green energy industries at Cuyahoga Community College to discuss the SECTORS Act. Brown joined Dr. Craig Follins, Executive Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development at Cuyahoga Community College, to outline how more than $3 million in new federal funds for Tri-C will provide students with specialized training in bioscience, medical manufacturing, and green energy. The same day, Brown met with displaced auto workers and business leaders on Kent State University’s Trumbull campus to outline how more than $238,000 in new federal funds for the Northeast Ohio Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Kent State Trumbull will meet regional workforce needs by providing workers with specialized training in advanced manufacturing.