Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) cosponsored the Opportunity KNOCKS (Kindling New Options for Career and Knowledge Seekers) Act today to help provide a path for the unemployed to find gainful employment. Although the national unemployment rate has been decreasing, California still has an unemployment rate of 9.6%, and Stockton has an even higher unemployment rate of 17.5%. There are over 913,000 people in California currently receiving unemployment benefits each week. [Department of Labor, 3/19/13]
"We need to focus on getting people back to work and provide local economic security. One of the biggest contributors to unemployment is insufficient job training. By helping people to become skilled in various fields, we can help them transition from being on unemployment benefits to having good-paying jobs," said Congressman McNerney.
The Opportunity KNOCKS Act directs states to allow individuals receiving unemployment benefits to earn an industry-recognized certificate, apprenticeship, associate, or bachelor's degree. Too many individuals become ineligible for unemployment benefits when seeking training because they are not seen as "actively seeking and available for work."
The Opportunity KNOCKS Act broadens the definition of approved training and requires states to approve any worker who is seeking training under the Workforce Investment Act, any industry-recognized certificate, an apprenticeship and an associate or baccalaureate degree.
Today, there are more than 12 million unemployed Americans. This past February, the Department of Labor (DOL) reported people with only a high school diploma had an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, more than twice that of unemployment rates among college graduates. Those without a high school diploma are experiencing unemployment rates of more than three times that of college graduates. In addition, on average, people with college degrees make roughly $20,000 per-year more than those with just a high school diploma.
"This is an important, bipartisan effort to help individuals find a successful path to stable full-time employment. This country is about providing opportunity for growth and achievement, and no one should be denied the chance to advance when he or she is willing to work hard and receive the training that will bring financial stability and steady employment to his or her life," said Congressman McNerney.
The Opportunity KNOCKS Act has broad local support:
"Every day, I see people who are willing and ready to do whatever they can to find good, sustained employment. The Opportunity KNOCKS Act will provide displaced workers with the resources and support they need to acquire the skills they need to forge a path to full-time employment and end their reliance on unemployment benefits. I commend Congressman McNerney for supporting such a commonsense measure." - John Solis, Executive Director, San Joaquin County WorkNet
"The Opportunity KNOCKS Act is a bill that will help local residents get the training and education they need to compete for good jobs. I appreciate Congressman McNerney for supporting this proposal." - Pat Patrick, President/CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce
"I welcome any effort that helps community members to advance their education and build new skills to meet the demands of the 21st century workplace. Thank you, Congressman McNerney, for your leadership and ensuring that hardworking individuals can still pursue their career training." -Pamela A. Eibeck, President, University of the Pacific
"Thank you, Congressman McNerney, for helping the unemployed. The Opportunity KNOCKS Act will allow for displaced workers in San Joaquin County to advance their skill sets through training and higher education." -- Mary Kennedy-Bracken, President/CEO of the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce
"Helping hard-working people find full-time employment will benefit our entire community. The more trained our local workforce becomes, the better our local economy will be. The Opportunity KNOCKS Act is a clear step to building a more competitive workforce in our region, and I thank Congressman McNerney for putting forth this proposal." - Dr. Kathy Hart, Superintendent/ President of San Joaquin Delta College
"I commend Congressman Jerry McNerney on co-sponsoring the Opportunity KNOCKS Act, which will help those striving to better themselves with a needed assist when they need it. They should not be penalized when trying to better themselves in the workplace & in their family lives, and this legislation will go along way in that manner!" - Kenneth L Seamann, President, Brentwood California Chamber of Commerce