"Jobs, jobs, jobs" are the main issues for 8th District Congressman Richard Hudson, who met with local business and government leaders at Harrisburg Town Hall Tuesday morning.
Hudson told the group that jobs were his top priority and that he had worked to pass the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803) to simplify federal job training.
Currently there are more than 50 federal job training programs which are confusing to potential workers and hard to access, Hudson said.
"Frankly, these programs are broken. Fifty percent of the people who come out of them don't have the skills they need to get the job and we waste a lot of money in overhead."
The SKILLS Act passed the U.S. House in March by a 215-202 vote. There were 213 Republicans and two Democrats in favor and 188 Democrats and 14 Republicans in opposition.
Hudson said the act would consolidate the programs and eliminate a lot of the overhead and stream line the process.
The bill would also ask that two-thirds of the boards for the jobs programs be made up of business people because there are some with no business representation, Hudson said.
"Currently there are over 12 million unemployed in this country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.6 million jobs are unfilled -- people can't find skilled workers to fill those jobs," Hudson said.
Hudson and his staff have been touring the 8th District since he took office Jan. 3. So far there have been 34 meetings similar to the Harrisburg gathering, including meetings with all 11 chambers of commerce in the district, Hudson said.
One of the visits was to Charlotte Pipe last week, where Hudson said he learned that the company has a hard time finding people who are qualified with electrical and mechanical backgrounds to repair and maintain their equipment.
South Piedmont Community College started a program across the street and as soon as the students graduate they can cross the street and have a job, Hudson said. "That's the kind of relationships we're looking for, where we have programs that are tailored towards jobs that are out there."
Hudson said it is important that employers across Cabarrus County can get the kind of workers they need so they can expand and be prosperous.
Another example is Richmond Community College. Hudson said an employer needed a specific kind of welder. The college helped screen and select the applicants and then developed a program to train them for the jobs.
"Having that kind of flexibility to be able to respond to needs is critical for job creation," Hudson said. "If you've got all these federal strings attached, you can't move as quickly as you need. That's a huge problem."
Hudson said the concerns for the Skills Act have been how to know that the students will receive the right training.
"I trust the people here locally to figure out what kind of training they need. In fact I trust the folks in this community more than I trust bureaucrats in Washington to figure out the needs in this community," Hudson said.
Hudson spoke for about 15 minutes Tuesday then answered questions for another 30 minutes.
Topics included veterans' jobs, healthcare cost and the Affordable Care Act, infrastructure funding, North Korea and federal school lunch requirements.
Hudson said with a divided Washington and the current political climate he was looking "to make first downs instead of touchdowns" and that he felt some progress was possible.
He warned that reducing federal spending was a must to prevent the collapse of the United States economy.
If spending continues at the current pace, the federal budget would be 200 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, Hudson said. He emphasized that Greece, which is experiencing a financial crisis, has government spending at 180 percent of its GDP.
The congressman plans to visit every community college in the 8th District this week except Central Piedmont in Charlotte. A visit is planned there later.
Hudson will be at the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College South Campus Thursday.
Tuesday's meeting in Harrisburg was arranged by the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce's Governmental Affairs Committee.