U.S. House Schedules Vote on Sen. Brown Bill Aimed at Targeting Workforce Training Funds to Meet Needs of Regions, High-Growth Industries

“Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act” Authored by Sen. Brown in 2008 and Introduced in House by Reps. Loebsack and Platts, Would Utilize Regional Approach to Workforce Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives is today expected to vote on bipartisan legislation - first authored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in 2008 and introduced in the House by Reps. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Todd Platts (R-PA) - that would promote job creation by building new workforce training pathways to meet the needs of high-growth industry sectors in regions across the country.

“Workforce development and job creation go hand-in-hand,” said Brown. “But we need to do a better job of ensuring that employers in high-growth industries can find local employees who have the right training. That’s why the SECTORS Act is so important. By providing tailored education programs for regional industry needs, we can create and retain jobs. This bipartisan bill would ensure that American workers are equipped with the skills for jobs of the 21st century.”

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 critical cosponsor. The bill would  support the development of specialized workforce training programs at two-year colleges to meet regional workforce needs of emerging industries or "sectors." In 2009, the SECTORS Act was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Reps. Loebsack Platts (R-PA).

A summary of the bill can be found here.

A vote is scheduled in the U.S. House starting at 6 p.m. tonight. Ohio Representatives Steve Austria (OH-7), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Tim Ryan (OH-17), Zack Space (OH-18), and Betty Sutton (OH-13) are cosponsors of the bill.

The SECTORS Act addresses the disparity between high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers for many emerging industries. 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.

To address this disparity, the SECTORS Act provides 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.

Between 2000 and 2007, Ohio experienced a 24.3 percent drop in manufacturing employment, shedding nearly 230,000 jobs. Overall employment dropped by nearly 3.6 percent in the same time period. Compared with other states in the region, Ohio is one of only three that did not fully recover jobs lost after the 2001 recession. Ohio also had the second highest manufacturing job losses, behind Michigan.

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.

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