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Barletta Continues Efforts to Close the Skills Gap and Help Americans Enter the Workforce

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WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) this week pressed business leaders and educators on how private sector businesses can help local, state, and federal governments prepare Americans workers with today’s in-demand skills during a hearing entitled “Closing the Skills Gap: Private Sector Solutions for America’s Workforce.”  The hearing, held by the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, brought business leaders and education experts to the table to discuss creative approaches to bridging the skills gap.

“If we want to maintain our position as a global leader and truly compete in the world economy, then our workforce must be able to set the pace,” Barletta said.  “I often hear from local employers who say they have good-paying jobs available, but they cannot find the workers to fill them.  I know from experience that one way to fix this problem is to engage local business communities in the process when developing career and technical education programs.”

Barletta has long been a supporter of programs that help prepare Americans with the skills they need to compete for high-skilled, in-demand jobs.  When mayor of Hazleton, Barletta was instrumental in forming Partners in Education (PIE), a non-profit organization consisting of local business and education partners focused on ensuring that all students left school with the academic, technical, and employability skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century.  PIE brought together local industries, the school district, and students, allowing students to learn about opportunities that existed right in their backyards while also giving local industries a platform to educate students on what skills they were looking for in an employee.

During the hearing, Barletta questioned Mr. Ryan Costella, the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Click Bond, Inc., on how federal, state and local government can better work together to realize similar results as PIE.  Step one, Costella answered, is having employers and educators who are willing to sit down and have conversations about the skills needed and how to properly include those skills in curriculums.  Costella also stressed that it is critical to align state-allocated dollars and federal-allocated dollars to fund programs that successfully result in jobs and career growth.

As part of his commitment to closing the skills gap and supporting career and technical education (CTE) programs, in May 2017, Barletta participated in a press conference at Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) with state Sen. John Yudichak (D-Carbon/Luzerne) and representatives from higher education and workforce development advocacy groups to discuss the importance of reauthorizing CTE programs.  Barletta then toured LCCC and met with students learning various trade skills (pictured above).

More recently, in June 2017, Barletta voted for the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353).  This legislation, which Barletta also cosponsored, strengthens and reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides federal support to state and local CTE programs.  Unfortunately, the Senate has yet to act on this important legislation.

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