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The Best Way to Celebrate Labor Day is to Get West Virginians Back to Work


Location: Beckley, WV

If there's one thing I've learned in my years of public service to West Virginians, it's that we have the best workers in the world.

What they need are more opportunities to prove it.

We are at a watershed moment in creating jobs here in West Virginia and around the country. Over the past two years, I've made it a personal goal to revitalize domestic manufacturing and create more jobs in our communities. I've convened several roundtables with business owners and a field hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, which I chair.

The goal has been simple: to strengthen our efforts to assist manufacturing companies, both big and small, in creating products here at home--not overseas. That means high-quality, high-paying jobs for workers who stand ready and able to move our economy forward.

These meetings confirmed to me that while innovation is essential, it's only one piece of the puzzle. Community and technical college presidents tell me we have to improve job training and align our workforce with the skills demanded by the global economy.

Different industries report that thousands of positions are going unfilled because applicants lack the necessary skills in science, engineering, technology and math. We call these STEM fields. Over the last decade, the number of STEM jobs has grown three times faster than non-STEM jobs. And, on average, STEM workers earn 25 percent more and are less likely to be unemployed. These are also the fields that will keep
America competitive in manufacturing, health care, energy production, and so
many other industries.

That's why we have to provide the best possible science and engineering education, not just to prepare our children for tomorrow's high-tech jobs, but to train people to fill these jobs today.

Our state's proud labor history includes a strong and dedicated workforce that's been at the heart of West Virginia's economy. In many ways, West Virginians built this country by mining its coal, forging its steel, and manufacturing the products that American families and businesses rely on every day. And I'm convinced we can lead the way in revitalizing our state and national economy by also embracing innovation, technology and that classic West Virginia work ethic that's served us so well in the past.

By doing that, we celebrate Labor Day not just this year, but in the years to come.

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