DelBene Asks Community Colleges to Detail the Skills Gap in the American Work Force
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) co-chair of the House Democratic Caucus New Economy Task Force, asked community colleges to detail how they are addressing the skills gap in the American work force with the goal of gleaning new information that will help guide policy discussions on the issue in Congress.
DelBene asked community colleges to provide information on the skills being taught in educational institutions and how federal policy could help remedy the disparities between the skills workers currently have and the skills sought by companies for the jobs of tomorrow.
“We have seen many changes in the way the world works and these changes have created great opportunities and painful disruptions. Our collective goal is to make sure workers have the tools they need to take advantage of the opportunities and to overcome the disruptions,” DelBene said. “To ensure workers gain the skills needed to succeed in these new and changing jobs we need strong programs and STEM education – or as I like to say STEAM, because the arts and creative thinking are just as important as we build innovative, lifelong learners. I look forward to hearing from our educators on the ground about ways they think we can address this important issue.”
Despite 6.8 million Americans currently seeking jobs in the United States, a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business found 45 percent of small business owners said they were unable to find qualified applicants to fill job openings.
“The skills gap leaves us unable to adequately address one aspect of America’s unemployment problem. Discovering more about how our educational institutions are specifically training students to enter the work force will help House Democrats prepare our future workers for their future careers,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley (D-NY). “With the leadership of Rep. DelBene, I’m confident in House Democrats’ ability to develop policies that will help give students and workers the opportunities to gain the skillsets needed for the future.”
With a rapidly changing economy and new challenges facing American workers, the New Economy Task Force will take a forward-leaning approach to job growth, looking at rapidly advancing technology, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing and ensuring workers are trained for the jobs of tomorrow.
The New Economy Task Force is one of five Democratic Caucus Jobs for America Task Forces, all focused on creating opportunities for growth, boosting hardworking families and giving every worker the opportunity to achieve the American dream by developing legislation focused on investing in key industries. The effort was launched by House Democratic Caucus in September.
For more information on the House Democratic Caucus’ Jobs for America Task Forces, please visit: www.dems.gov/jobsforamerica
Full text of the letter follows:
As Co-chairs of the Democratic Caucus’ New Economy Task Force in the United States House of Representatives, we are interested in learning more about the work being done by the community college system in Washington to address the “skills gap”. We seek your experience, expertise, and input to guide us as we look to shape federal policy in this field, and hope that you can respond to our questionnaire.
Our nation is facing a large and growing gap between the skills our workers possess and those sought by potential employers. The result is there are six million open jobs in the United States, while 6.8 million people looking for work. This disparity is particularly true in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. According to U.S. News and World Report, in the 2014-15 school year our nation produced 30,000 STEM graduates to fill 230,000 STEM-related jobs. We also understand that the gap has regional variations, and there are often issues at the local level that are not reflected in the national data we see.
As part of the mission of the New Economy Task Force, we are committed to advancing policies that address this problem and prepare workers with the skills sought by employers. Recent studies demonstrate that career-oriented technical and applied science associate degrees can be more beneficial to some students than bachelor’s degrees, and that community colleges are well prepared to train a greater number of students in these important fields. We have also heard anecdotally that in some fields, students use community colleges to get the skills necessary for a job and leave without graduating, making your programs seem less successful on paper than they truly are.
We need your help to learn more about what works - and what doesn’t – with respect to the opportunities provided to students at community colleges. Our sole focus is to craft good public policy that supports and expands best practices employed by community colleges nationwide to ensure we have both a skilled workforce, and that good jobs are available so people can provide for their families.
To better inform us, we ask that you kindly respond to the questionnaire attached and return it to the Democratic Caucus, at the U.S. House of Representatives by October 15, 2017. Thank you.
Partnering with Private Companies:
In regions that border multiple states, what are the added challenges to serving job markets in more than one state (licensing, wage disparity etc.)? Are these challenges informing course offerings state-wide, out of state?
Role of the Government:
Community colleges have the opportunity to improve how our economy connects potential employers with future employees while also providing a pathway to a high quality job and a middle class life style. For that reason, we greatly appreciate you taking the time to provide us first-hand knowledge of your programs and the experiences you have had. We hope that this will better inform us as we try to craft policy to help every American get the right job to support themselves and their families.