Today, Congressman Joe Donnelly spoke about his bill designed to help American workers apply their skills across Indiana and the country, The American Manufacturing Efficiency and Retraining Investment Collaboration Achievement (AMERICA) Works Act, at Ivy Tech Community College. To illustrate how this bill could help skilled workers, Donnelly described a situation that many skilled workers face today.
"Say you're from St. Joe County and, after working many years in a skilled position, you lost your job through no fault of your own," said Donnelly. "You've been looking for a new job and because nothing is more important to you than finding a new job, you're willing to relocate. But, you've found out after interviewing for positions in other parts of the state that not all prospective employers recognize the certification you received for skills gained in your old job. In a sense, you're stuck where you are--even thought you might be at the top of your game when it comes to working with a complicated piece of machinery.
Currently, there are many regional certifications that are earned within particular private companies, trade associations, or other certifying organizations. My legislation would make it easier for workers to take these skills to different regions and across state lines. In my bill, the U.S. Department of Labor would compile a national list of all credentials required by state or federal law for an occupation, including the Manufacturing Institute-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System and other industry-recognized, nationally-portable credentials.
With this national registry, the Hoosier in the scenario I just laid out would be able to reference the fact that his certification is part of the Department of Labor's national registry. The potential employer could reference the national registry to cross-check a certification that he may not have been familiar with. We still have a lot of work to do to make sure that there is a job for every Hoosier, but this will help job-seekers more efficiently market their skills and find a good job match."
The AMERICA Works Act would better equip skilled workers to successfully connect with the employers who need them through two steps:
* First, Donnelly's bill would require the U.S. Secretary of Labor to create a registry of skill credentials. This registry would list credentials that are: required by federal or state law for an occupation; from the Manufacturing Institute-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System; or industry-recognized and nationally portable credentials. It would also require a third party to validate these credentials to reflect evolving industry requirements.
* Following the creation of this registry, Donnelly's legislation would re-direct existing resources under the Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, Workforce Investment Act, and Trade Adjustment Assistance Act toward education and training programs that lead to industry-recognized and nationally portable credentials listed in the national registry. His bill would also prioritize funding for training programs that lead to credentials that are in high demand by manufacturers or other sectors requiring skilled workers.
The AMERICA Works Act is endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers and currently has bipartisan support from 10 other Members of Congress. Recently, the Blue Dog Coalition endorsed Donnelly's bill and his bill was included in House Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer's "Make It In America" manufacturing agenda.
In March 2011, Congressman Donnelly hosted a summit on the future of manufacturing in Indiana where he heard from employers, workers, and researchers from around the state as to what is working well and what we need to improve in order to continue to lead in this field. At this event, Donnelly heard from employers and employees alike that we need to improve the current system of connecting skilled workers with the manufacturers that need them. After receiving their feedback, he introduced The AMERICA Works Act to assist in this effort.