Senator Pushes Workforce Training Bill

Proposed grant program aimed at helping industry and educators work together to form targeted training programs

Addressing the skilled workforce shortage will require a collaborative environment stretching from business leaders to community colleges and labor groups that is focused on training workers for growing industries such as bioscience and alternative energy, said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, while speaking at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland April 13 about his recently introduced workforce-development legislation.

Brown, along with Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, introduced on April 1 the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success Act that would provide federal funding for organizations that work with regional resources to enhance job skills for developing industrial fields.

Brown discussed how his bill could help create regional partnerships that may revitalize the manufacturing base in states such as Ohio where traditional heavy industry has steadily declined over the past several decades. He cited Cuyahoga Community College as an example of local leaders partnering with educators to build training programs targeted at growing industries in the region.

The college opened a Bioscience Workforce Training and Assessment Center in the fall of 2008 to provide workforce development for approximately 450 bioscience companies in northeast Ohio (see "Medicine for a Manufacturing Turnaround"). The college worked with bioscience manufacturers in the region to develop the curriculum and training facilities.

The legislation would provide funds of up to $250,000 and a three-year implementation grant of up to $2.5 million to eligible applicants. Grant recipients also can apply for $1.5 million in renewal funds for an additional three years if certain conditions are met. Under the legislation, eligible entities must increase their use of nonfederal funds each year they receive federal funding.

Prospective grantees must identify specific industry clusters based on the competitiveness of the business, its importance to the economic development of the area or region being served and demand for skilled workers and the availability of jobs.

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