Brown’s SECTORS Act Would Address Disparity Between High Unemployment Rate and Unfilled Vacancies by Matching Workforce Development with Needs of Regional, High-Growth Industries
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, President Obama will announce an expansion of Skills for America’s Future in an effort to boost American manufacturing. The initiative is aligned with the sector-based workforce development bill first authored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – who has been described as Congress’ leading proponent of American manufacturing – in 2008. Brown and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe’s (R-ME) Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act would address the disparity between the high unemployment and unfilled vacancies for jobs by tailoring workforce development efforts to meet the news of high-growth, regional industries.
“As President Obama’s initiative shows, we need to engage employers on what skills are needed for the hiring they foresee. A mismatch between skills and job vacancies undermines American manufacturing and our nation’s economic recovery. Even with Ohio’s unemployment rate hovering above eight percent, too many employers struggle to find workers with the skills for the job. That’s why a SECTORS approach to workforce development is so important. By tailoring workforce development to the needs of regional businesses, we can put Ohioans back to work and help attract new economic development.”
Brown first introduced SECTORS in 2008, and announced plans to reintroduce it this year at a meeting of the Administration’s Manufacturing Council held at Perrysburg, Ohio’s First Solar. The SECTORS Act is critical bill to train workers for skilled jobs in emerging industries like clean energy. First Solar CEO Bruce Sohn serves as chairman of the Manufacturing Council, which is tasked with advising the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector.
As described in a front page story in today’s Dayton Daily News, employers – particularly manufacturers – are seeking workers with the right skill set to fill jobs being created as the economy recovers.
Despite the nation’s 8.7 percent unemployment rate, there is still demand in today’s labor market for skilled workers. This is particularly true for “middle-skill” jobs that require more than a high school degree but less than a four-year college degree. These jobs make up nearly half of America's labor market and provide good compensation for workers.
The SECTORS Act addresses 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 board. 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.
The SECTORS Act would organize stakeholders connected to a regional industry-multiple firms, unions, education and training providers, and local workforce and education system administrators-to develop plans for growing that industry. Eligible entities would be able to apply for a one year planning grant of up to $250,000 and a three year implementation grant of up to $2.5 million.
As a member of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, Brown has introduced a package of key legislative proposals aimed at bolstering the competiveness of U.S. manufacturers and boosting domestic manufacturing. He also serves as a member of the President’s Export Council, working to advance the National Export Initiative (NEI) and reach President Barack Obama's goal to double exports over the next five years.
During the State Work Period in August and September, Brown traveled around Ohio and met with small business owners and workers as part of his “Made in Ohio Tour.” Described as
“Congress’ leading proponent of American Manufacturing,” Brown is working with the Obama Administration on the creation of a national manufacturing policy and has outlined five key areas of focus to invest in the manufacturing industry:
- Creating a business climate, through tax and health care policies, favorable to investment in manufacturing;
- Investing in the manufacturing capacity for national priorities such as clean energy, infrastructure, and critical military equipment;
- Strengthening our component supply chains through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP);
- Matching dislocated workers with emerging industries through sector-based workforce training strategies;
- Making the research and development tax credit permanent to lend predictability to this crucial incentive for manufacturing innovation;
- Promoting exports and defending against unfair trade.