SECTORS Would Address Disparity Between High Unemployment and Shortage of Workers With Specialized Skill Sets for High-Growth Industries Like Biosciences, Clean Energy, and Advanced Manufacturing


WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) today announced the introduction of the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act, legislation that would promote job creation by preparing workers with education and training tailored for jobs in high-growth industry sectors—like biosciences, clean energy, and advanced manufacturing—in regions across the country. U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack (IA-2) and Todd Russell Platts (PA-19) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Workforce development and job creation go hand-in-hand. Even in this time of high unemployment, I’ve heard from Ohio companies in high-growth industries who say they’re ready to hire but can’t find workers with the specialized skills needed to fill the position,” Senator Brown said. “We need to do a better job of creating tailoring workforce development programs to meet the demands of these 21st-century industries. The SECTORS Act creates partnerships between educators, industry, and workforce training boards to ensure that workers have the right skills to get hired in high-tech, good-paying jobs. And by ensuring a skilled, local workforce, we can attract clusters of employers in high-growth industries.”

“The needs of our modern manufacturing sector are constantly changing. In order to stay competitive and keep jobs in our economy, we need to foster an environment where companies have access to a qualified workforce and where workers have access to specialized skills and training,” said Senator Snowe, who serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee and Co-Chair of the Senate Task Force on Manufacturing. “If we work cooperatively to identify community needs and bring together employers, institutes of higher learning, and potential workforce members, we can spur job growth. This bill moves us toward that goal.”  

“It is more important than ever to invest federal dollars in efficient, cost-effective strategies with proven results,” said Andy Van Kleunen, Executive Director for National Skills Coalition. “With the introduction of the SECTORS Act, Senators Brown and Snowe are calling for better, more effective approaches to training our workforce. We applaud these leaders for championing solutions that will enable our education and training institutions to better meet the needs of regional industries and provide pathways to good jobs for unemployed Americans.”

Despite the nation's 9.5 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 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.

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.

“In the Greater Cincinnati Workforce Network, we’re working with industry to prepare people for jobs that are currently available and to prepare for what’s ahead,” said Ross Meyer, Executive Director. “Senator Brown's leadership on the SECTORS Act demonstrates his commitment to ensuring Ohio's workforce has the skills to respond to opportunities in the industries ready to grow today as well as those we expect to see grow in the future.”

“Manufacturing is crucial to both the Ohio and US economy and having trained workers to draw upon is critical to the success of manufacturing.  Sector Partnerships similar to the Advanced Manufacturing Career Pathway of the Greater Cincinnati Workforce Network help ensure the sustainability of our industry by supporting a pipeline of skilled workers,” said Scott Ellsworth, VP of US Operations at Tipco Punch in Hamilton, Ohio.  “Senator Brown’s leadership on this bill demonstrates his commitment to Ohio’s workers and economic future.”

“Sector Partnerships are a win-win for my company and my community,” said Liza Smitherman, VP of Professional Development for Jostin Construction, Inc. “Knowing there is a pipeline of skilled workers means I can focus on growing my business which in turn creates more jobs and opportunities for advancement within my company.” 

“The industry partnership training model differs from traditional efforts in that it starts with employers,” said Chip Roche, owner of Newfab, Inc. and Chair of the Manufacturers Association of Maine Board of Directors.  “In this model, industry associations coordinate efforts to solicit input from local industry participants, define skills requirements, develop training programs, and recruit, screen, and test trainees.  They then manage training programs and place graduates in skilled positions with participating employers.  Senator Snowe's leadership on the SECTORS Act demonstrates her commitment to fostering an environment in which the private sector creates jobs, both in the industries that have historically driven the Maine economy as well as those that will emerge to drive our future growth.”

“Manufacturing is crucial to our state’s economy, and sector partnerships help ensure the sustainability of many industries by supporting a pipeline of skilled workers,” said Ron Dupuis, Operations Manager of Instrument Solutions at IDEXX Laboratories and Education Chair for the Manufacturers Association of Maine. “Senator Snowe’s leadership on this bill demonstrates her commitment to our state’s workers, industries, and economic future.”

“The marine industry is one of Maine’s oldest industries and yet it is still one that is a cornerstone to our state’s economy. Sector partnerships, as evidenced by the Success of Maine’s North Star Alliance Initiative which focused on boatbuilding, composites manufacturing and marine trades, help ensure the sustainability of our industry by supporting a pipeline of skilled workers,” said Susan Swanton, Executive Director of Maine Marine Trades Association. “Senator Snowe’s leadership on this bill demonstrates her commitment to our state’s workers, industries, and economic future.”