Cantwell Concludes Statewide Listening Tour in Bellingham
Convenes Forum of Community Leaders to Address America's Workforce Needs for Today and the Future
Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) concluded a series of leadership roundtables, "Jobs for Us, Jobs for Our Kids," with key regional business and community leaders she's been convening in Bellingham to discuss what it takes to create the workforce of the 21st Century. For years, Cantwell has relentlessly worked on behalf of U.S. workers to ensure they have the support and training they need to compete in a global economy. She joined industry, higher education, labor and workforce development experts for a conversation on how to create successful partnerships that will help America, and Washington state, maintain its competitive edge.
"I believe the only way that America can stay competitive in a global economy is if our workers have the best training and the best lifelong education programs," said Cantwell. "It is clear we need a new national commitment to invest in the skills of the American workforce, and I will keep fighting to make sure our communities have everything they need to support U.S. employees and employers."
This is the fifth roundtable Cantwell hosted throughout the state this week including, Vancouver, Tumwater, Seattle, and Spokane. Also participating in the Bellingham roundtable were: Dan Pike, Mayor of Bellingham; Pete Kremen, Whatcom County Executive; Dr. Karen Morse, President, Western Washington University;
Matt Mullett, President, All American Marine; Marjorie Hatter, Refinery Manager, ConocoPhillips Ferndale Refinery; Mike Nelson, Project Manager, Dakota Creek Industries; Atul Deshmane, President, Whole Energy
Lisa Janicki, CFO, Janicki Industries; Jeff Pitzer, Business Unit Leader (Plant Manager), BP, Cherry Point Refinery; Jodie Read, Public Relations and Communications Manager, Alcoa Intalco Works, Ferndale
Hugh Diehl, IAM local 2379; Dr. Steven Dillman, Chair of the Plastics Engineering Technology Department at WWU; Satpal Sidhu, Dean of Professional Technical Engineering, Bellingham Technical College; Patricia McKeown, Vice President for Instruction, Bellingham Technical College; Laura Cailloux, Interim Dean of Professional and Technical Education, Skagit Valley College; Don Wick, Executive Director, Economic Development Association of Skagit County; Nancy Jordan, Executive Director, Bellingham Economic Development Council.
Last year, Cantwell introduced a bill to create Lifelong Learning Accounts (LiLAs) that would give individuals and businesses new tax incentives to invest in continuing education and skills training opportunities. LiLAs would create portable asset accounts similar to 401(k)s, that workers could use to pay for continuing education and training.
This year, Cantwell is working with her colleagues to reauthorize and expand Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to improve services for more trade-impacted workers. TAA was established under the Trade Act of 1974. The TAA program provides aid to workers who lost their jobs or whose hours of work and wages are reduced as a result of increased imports. The program offers a variety of benefits and services to assist unemployed workers to prepare for and obtain suitable employment. Workers may be eligible for training, job search and relocation allowances, income support and other reemployment services. Cantwell has been a leader in the Senate for advocating TAA training and Workforce Investment Act training programs.
During times of war, Cantwell is also making sure the Montgomery GI Bill for Life Act will benefit today's soldiers. The GI Bill for Life Act would ensure that education opportunities are life-long, allowing service members and veterans the flexibility to seek education and job training opportunities.
Based on the information gathered at these roundtables, Cantwell aims to return to Washington, D.C. to garner more support from her colleagues in the Senate to create the strongest workforce of the 21st Century.