Sen. Brown Announces Plan That Would Improve Workforce Development to Help Eastern Ohioans Train for High-Paying Jobs and Connect Local Businesses with Skilled Workers

Last Week, Senate Passed Provisions of Brown’s Legislation that Would Address Skills Gap, Match Workforce Development with Needs of Regional, High-Growth Industries Brown Visits Ohio Means Jobs- Jefferson County Jobs Center to Call on House of Representatives to Reauthorize Workforce Investment Act to Address Country’s Skills Gap

STEUBENVILLE, OH – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced a plan that would improve the nation’s workforce development system to help Eastern Ohioans train for high-paying jobs and provide local businesses the skilled workers they need to compete. The Senate passed legislation last week that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The bill contains provisions modeled after Brown’s SECTORS Act, which would help dislocated workers acquire the skills for high-tech jobs in their region. Now that the Senate did its part, Brown called on the House of Representatives to also reauthorize WIA to address our country’s skills gap.

“With too many Eastern Ohioans still unable to find work, we must do all that we can to ensure that our workers are qualified to fill available jobs,” Brown said. “The Senate passed provisions of my SECTORS Act that would strengthen job training efforts and enable industries like energy and manufacturing to grow and create jobs. Now it is the House’s turn to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act to address our regional skills gap and benefit our workers and businesses.” 

WIA was first passed in 1998 to encourage local businesses to work with the federal government in developing workforce development that is customer-focused, gives Americans the resources they need to manage their careers, and helps American companies find skilled workers. A recent report found that between 2008 and 2018, Ohio will create 967,000 job openings requiring postsecondary education or training. Ohio, in fact, ranks tenth 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.

That is why Brown successfully fought to pass provisions in the WIA reauthorization bill—the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—that would:

  • Ensure industry stakeholders and business representatives participate in devising and implementing workforce training programs;  
  • Require State Workforce Investment Boards to develop strategies that meet the needs of employers through industry or sector partnerships related to in-demand industry sectors and occupations; and
  • Require local employment and training activities to develop, convene, or implement industry or sector partnerships.

Joining Brown at the Ohio Means Jobs- Jefferson County Jobs Center was Christina Werkin, a local U.S. Air Force Reserve service member who was trained as a welder through WIA; Susan Vagogis, who was previously laid off but, through WIA, was trained for her current job at CIGNA; and Cory Jursik, the Vice President and Director of New Business Development for Global Oil & Gas Services. Jursik’s company hires drivers trained through WIA. Each discussed the importance of Brown’s legislation and the impact that WIA has had on Eastern Ohio’s economy.

Last year, Brown introduced the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act of 2013. The bipartisan legislation 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’s bill would also 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.

Described as “Congress’ leading proponent of American Manufacturing,” Brown continues to fight for Eastern Ohio’s workers and businesses. Brown is a member of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, currently Vice-Chair of the Senate Auto Caucus, and was recently named incoming Chair of the Senate Steel Caucus. In April, bipartisan manufacturing jobs legislation he introduced with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) moved one step closer to becoming law. The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI) would establish a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) and create thousands of high-paying, high-tech manufacturing jobs while enhancing the United States’ role as the world’s leader in advanced manufacturing. 

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