WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 22 of their colleagues, are pressing Senate leadership to include critical workforce development and career and technical education (CTE) funding in the next coronavirus relief bill.
In their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senators echoed the concerns of 38 labor and education advocacy groups calling for immediate assistance from Congress, and requested a minimum workforce investment of $15.1 billion.
“Although unemployment is surging overall, certain workforce needs are nonetheless growing, from frontline health services to manufacturing PPE and essential equipment, to contact tracing, and there is frequently a mismatch between the skills demanded for these jobs and the available workforce,” the senators wrote. “Although jobs in these industries do not always require four-year academic degrees, they necessitate high-quality workforce training and development. An immediate investment in workforce development would respond to the current demand for these employees while offering Americans meaningful, well-paying careers.”
“By supporting the development and availability of a workforce trained in in-demand skills, we can accelerate the recovery of our nation’s economy. Providing these newly unemployed individuals—and those yet to file claims—training and support today will prepare them to transition into new careers and pursue reemployment opportunities as our economy rebounds,” the senators continued.
Specifically, the senators requested that the funding be funneled towards programs authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act—programs designed to help build a strong, skilled, and diverse American workforce.
The letter comes as nearly 22 million workers filed for unemployment in the course of a month and as the economy shed nearly all of the jobs gained over the past five years.