By David Whisenant
While economists agree that unemployment is down across the nation, there are still thousands in our area who can't find work. Rowan and Cabarrus counties took a huge hit when Pillowtex closed, and there have been big job losses since then.
Into that gap stepped Rowan Cabarrus Community College, retraining workers for new jobs, but there's still a lot of work to do.
Freshman Republican Richard Hudson is touring community colleges across the 8th district, he says there are lots of jobs out there right now, but that people aren't trained for them and that the government's training program is broken.
You don't have to look far to see shuttered factories, but if you look closely you can find good paying jobs that aren't being filled because workers don't know how to do the work.
Congressman Hudson says there are 12 million people out of work, but 3.6 million jobs unfilled in the US. Why is that?
"Our workforce training programs are broken," Hudson told WBTV. "We've got to do a better job, consolidate them, streamline them, make them easier for folks to access and also have better accountability on the back end."
A Government Accountability Office study released in 2011 found that there are 47 different and often overlapping such programs that cost taxpayers $18 billion a year, and that's not the worst of it, according to Hudson.
"The folks coming out of these programs, 50% of them don't have the skills to go into the jobs they're looking for," Hudson added.
"The whole emphasis on career is that the intention is if you know what you're trying to get, the degree you're trying to get, you're more likely to get it," Dr. Carol Spalding, President of RCCC, told Hudson during the tour.
Hudson says by putting the spotlight on community colleges, it draws attention to the workforce training that's already going on across the 8th district.
Hudson was also a supporter of the SKILLS act that passed the Republican led Congress in mid March. It takes federal money away from designated groups of workers and puts it into block grants that states can use for their needs.
Hudson talked about that with community leaders at a round table after his campus tour on Tuesday. RCCC Board Chairman Chip Short, and Rowan County Commissioners Jim Sides and Craig Pierce were on the panel, along with RCCC faculty and administration members.
The President and Democrats mostly oppose the SKILLS act, saying that it shortchanges hard to employ populations, and democrats are pushing their own bill.
This is the third community college that Hudson has visited, but today was like a homecoming for him. He used to serve on the school's Board of Trustees.