In this sixth year of the Obama Economy, unemployment and underemployment remain high in Kentucky. As I travel throughout the Commonwealth, one thing could not be clearer: Kentuckians want more and better-paying jobs, and they are willing to work hard to get them.
Our government needs to adopt policies that will not only encourage job growth, but also encourage the creation of better-paying jobs. One way we can do this in Kentucky is to ensure that we prepare workers with the skills that employers are looking for, skills that will attract employers to the state.
According to a study by the National Skills Coalition, Kentucky has a large need for skilled labor, yet Kentucky has a shortage of these workers. The majority of U.S. manufacturers also struggle to find skilled labor. So, while our country is straining to create more jobs, it is also straining to fill current vacancies that pay high wages because they require certain skills or training.
Kentucky has always had a strong history of manufacturing, and that is something we need to maintain. As this and other industries continue to modernize, we need to equip our state’s workers with the education that allows them to take advantage of new opportunities.
That’s why I supported the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a bill to streamline and improve our nation’s job training and workforce development programs and make our workforce development system more efficient and more effective.
The bill promotes local flexibility and community engagement. It affords Kentucky and other states more control over the composition of their workforce boards—boards that bring together local businesses, community and technical colleges, career advisers, and local and state government to help determine what programs are most needed to meet local employer demands. It’s a common-sense bill that received bipartisan support and was enacted into law to help put people back to work in stable jobs.
Legislation isn’t the only way I’ve tried to advance job growth and workforce training in Kentucky. I have also tried to help worthy Kentucky groups receive assistance to help Kentuckians get the training they need.
Recently I helped the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program secure a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to help laid-off coal miners in eastern Kentucky. One way in which this program helps is by funding training for these former miners to find work as linemen. Because of this program which I am proud to support, laid-off coal miners have already found new work.
I also worked to assist the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation secure a grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand manufacturing facilities in Jackson and Clay counties and bring new jobs to a region that is suffering from higher-than-average unemployment and poverty—an issue compounded by the Obama Administration’s on-going war on coal jobs.
Additionally, I worked to assist eastern Kentucky’s Mountain Comprehensive Care Center receive a grant from the Department of Labor. This funding will go towards job training and employment services for low-income and homeless veterans in the region, and help them succeed in civilian careers. I was proud to work on projects like these to help those who so bravely defended us.
Putting Kentuckians back to work has been a top priority of mine throughout my career, and it’s one I will not abandon. President Obama’s disastrous policies have been bad for families and business in Kentucky, so once again, I encourage him to change course and work with us to promote policies that actually put Kentuckians back to work. But in the meantime, I will continue to push for effective workforce grants and training programs for Kentucky and I will continue to support federal policies that provide our friends, neighbors, and family members with the flexibility and resources they need to get them back on their feet.