Building on their shared efforts to create quality job opportunities in the short and long-term, Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the Democratic Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, joined Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) in the Ocean State today to meet with Rhode Islanders about priorities for growing the state and national economy.
Following a meeting on job training with Rhode Island leaders in career and technical education (CTE), Langevin invited Hoyer to tour General Dynamics Electric Boat's facility in Quonset, a cornerstone of the state's economy where manufacturing takes place for the peerless Virginia Class Submarines. Company leaders explained the work done in Rhode Island that has resulted in a boat that is consistently delivered to the U.S. Navy on time and under budget, with the most recent edition, the Mississippi, being finished 363 days ahead of schedule at $60 million less than the originally anticipated cost.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Langevin has worked to support job creation at Electric Boat (EB) and show the high national security value of these boats, noting their growing importance as the Pentagon's new strategy focuses increasingly on the Asia-Pacific. He helped lead efforts in the House to expand EB's production from one to two per year and to pass legislation in May that found a fiscally responsible way of preventing an Administration proposal that would have adversely impacted the local workforce by cutting one boat in 2014.
"I know Jim has worked tirelessly to create jobs in support of the submarines built here, and today's visit was a tremendous opportunity to see the incredible contributions that the people at Electric Boat are making to our national security," said Hoyer. "It's also a reminder that companies like Electric Boat can't flourish without a skilled workforce. Our discussion today on career and technical education highlighted the ways we must build up CTE programs across the nation to close our skills gap in many industries, and we're fortunate to have Jim's leadership on this issue in Washington."
Earlier, the Congressmen held a forum at New England Institute of Technology's East Greenwich campus with high school students, teachers and administrators involved in career and technical education programs, which train students for jobs in high-growth fields such as engineering, health care and information technology. The event was the latest stop on Langevin's Rhode Island Skilled Economy (RISE) Tour, launched earlier this year to advocate initiatives that can best train our current and future workforce for jobs in the 21st century economy.
Langevin and Hoyer emphasized the role of CTE in closing the skills gap that has held back the economic recovery, particularly in Rhode Island. Employers consistently tell Langevin they cannot find qualified workers to fill available jobs, despite the high unemployment rate.
The discussion was organized with Executive Director Josh Klemp of SkillsUSA Rhode Island, a nonprofit that aims to improve training of high school and college students for technical, skilled and service occupations. It coincided with proposals, including a recently-released blueprint by the Obama Administration, for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act, which provides for funding that prepares over 14 million students and displaced workers by providing access to the latest technology, equipment, and training.
"Even in a time of fiscal constraints, we must recognize the economic value of investing in our workforce," said Langevin. "Career and technical education produces college- and career-ready students who have been prepared both academically and with real-world experience to succeed in high-wage, high-skilled, and high-demand careers. However, CTE teachers and administrators can't do their job unless they have resources for their students and the opportunity to collaborate with local businesses. Due to recent cutbacks, they have been put in the unfortunate position of offering fewer services as demand for their programs grows. We need to engage with leaders in CTE to make our education and employment training opportunities as effective as possible."
As co-chair of the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, Langevin has spearheaded a bipartisan effort with more than 60 colleagues across the political spectrum to restore Perkins funding levels after federal cuts the past two years.
"As the state's largest career and technical student organization, SkillsUSA Rhode Island is proud to partner with Congressman Langevin in promoting Career and Technical Education initiatives," said Klemp. "We share the Congressman's desire to ensure that all of our students leave high school both college and career ready and we thank him for his support for the SkillsUSA Rhode Island program."