WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that contains provisions modeled after a bill U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced that would help dislocated workers acquire the skills for high-tech jobs in their region. Included in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that passed the Senate today were provisions from Brown’s SECTORS Act, which would promote and require sector-based partnerships to ensure that workforce training programs are developed with industry input and tailored to meet companies’ workforce needs. Brown and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the SECTORS Act of 2013 and successfully fought for similar language in WIOA, which reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).  

“With too many Americans 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. “My SECTORS Act provisions would strengthen job training efforts and enable U.S. industries like biotechnology, clean energy, and advanced manufacturing to continue to grow and flourish. I thank my Senate colleagues for helping pass my legislation as a part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Now it is the House’s turn to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act to address our country’s 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 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.

Last year, Brown introduced the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act of 2013. The 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.

In April, Brown applauded the Obama Administration’s new initiative to help workers train for—and land—local jobs. The initiative follows a model similar to Brown’s SECTORS Act. During an event in Pennsylvania, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced $600 million for targeted training and apprenticeship programs that would help American workers obtain the skills needed for well-paid, middle-class jobs. Brown first authored the SECTORS Act in 2008, with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as the lead Senate sponsor and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) as a cosponsor.

Described as “Congress’ leading proponent of American Manufacturing,” Brown continues to fight for 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.