LEVITTOWN, PA – Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) chaired a field hearing of the House Small Business Committee Monday focused on the skills gap and workforce development efforts. The bipartisan event, held at the Boilermakers Local 13 hall, brought together labor, business and educators to examine the ways in which federal programs help or hinder workforce development programs aimed at supporting small business and local trade unions. The hearing explored various methods in which federal programs can close the skills gap while effectively connection a new generation of workers with rewarding jobs in industries that are experiencing a lack of qualified applicants.
“Even in this time of economic growth, many small businesses across numerous industries are struggling to find qualified workers. If left unaddressed, this ‘skills gap’ will not only impact businesses and workers, but lead to significant economic spillovers throughout the nation,” said Fitzpatrick. “We’re all called to address this issue: elected officials and educators, local businesses and labor organizations. Today’s hearing is the first step in understanding the causes of the ‘skills gap’ and finding areas for potential improvement within our existing workforce development programs in all sectors.”
Substantive apprenticeship programs are an integral part of the quality education that leads to good paying American jobs. Fitzpatrick has been at the forefront of job training and workforce development issues in Congress, supporting legislation to increase access to apprenticeships, including:
- Apprenticeship and Jobs Training Act of 2017 [H.R.3707] Allows employers a business-related tax credit for up to $5,000 for the training of a qualified individual in a qualified apprenticeship program or multi-employer apprenticeship program.
- American Apprenticeship Act [H.R. 4083]: Directs the Department of Labor to make competitive grants to assist states in, and to pay for the federal share of between 20% and 50% of the cost of, instruction associated with pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.
Witnesses testifying at the hearing included (prepared statements attached):
- Mr. Patrick Eiding – President, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO
- Ms. Susan Herring – Interim Executive Director, Center for Workforce Development, Bucks County Community College
- Mr. Alex Halper – Director of Government Affairs, PA Chamber of Business and Industry
“Pennsylvania employers face competition from businesses in other states and, increasingly, around the world. While the Commonwealth has tremendous assets – abundant natural recourses, key geographic advantages, excellent higher education institutions – being successful in today’s global economy depends on Pennsylvania developing and harnessing the talent, skills and capacities of its citizens. Students must be prepared for careers or further education and workers must be able to adapt and continually acquire the training and skills required in the modern workplace,” said Halper. “Unfortunately, feedback from PA chamber members and employers around the Commonwealth has made it clear we are falling short of these goals.”
As part of his An America That Works jobs plan, Fitzpatrick outlines several legislative fixes to close the skills gap. You can read the whole plan HERE