House Approves Economic Development Legislation

July 20, 2010
'SECTORS' Act would provide grants for public-private partnerships to address training needs.

The U.S. House of Representatives on July 19 approved bipartisan legislation that aims to help industries meet their skilled workforce needs by connecting public- and private-sector stakeholders in various industry clusters.

The Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act, H.R. 1855, would set up a grant program through the Department of Labor to provide funding for partnerships between businesses, unions, educators and the public workforce system to coordinate training activities in high-demand and emerging industries, according to the House Education and Labor Committee. Eligible partnerships could receive up to $2.5 million in grants for the first three years and up to an additional $1.5 million thereafter.

U.S. Reps. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Todd Platts, R-Pa., introduced the bill, which is an effort to drive industry growth and competitiveness by aligning training and education with actual local employers needs, according to the Education and Labor Committee.

It is critical that we ensure that workers have the right skills for todays labor market and that those skills help them move into jobs and careers, said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure that federally funded training is developed in partnership with local and regional employers.

The grants will enable industry players to plan for the future, allowing them to conduct research into market trends, potential new technologies and workforce needs, and develop shared capacity for joint training centers and research and development work, according to Loebsack.

A survey conducted last year of 779 industrial companies by the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte found that 32% of companies reported moderate to serious skills shortages. Sixty-three percent of life science companies and 45% of energy firms cited such shortages.

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