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Drug Quality and Security Act-- Motion to Proceed-- Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BEGICH. Before I make my comments regarding manufacturing and job creation in America and in Alaska, I would like to say I know my friend from Hawaii was here earlier, Senator Schatz, talking about the important resolution that has been submitted that I was honored to be able to cosponsor regarding the typhoon in the Philippines.

Alaska has over 20,000 Filipinos living in our State--an incredible group of individuals, people I have known in the business world, as individuals, and family members. The devastation is unbelievable as you look at the photos and see the devastation of the typhoon and the impact it has had on families there. Even though it is thousands of miles away, I can tell you, in Alaska, we feel it, we see it. Our Filipino friends there have many relatives on the islands, and the impact is just unbelievable.

I was in Alaska this weekend and met with members of the leadership of the Filipino community, as well as members from the Red Cross and others to see what we can do from an Alaskan perspective, because Alaska knows what disasters are like. From earthquakes to floods, we seem to have them quite often. We know what type of impact these events have on families, so I was very happy to support the resolution my friend from Hawaii submitted, but also want to recognize the 20,000 Filipino community members in Alaska who are suffering and thinking about their families and friends overseas.

We want to do everything we can. I know our country is there and ready and moving a lot of resources to assist. So I wanted to put that on the record and give my condolences to families who have lost loved ones, but also to Alaskans who are grieving for family and friends who may have been lost in the typhoon. I know personally I have done my own contributions, whatever I can to assist in moving operations forward and bringing resources to the islands.


I also came today to talk on the floor about the need for additional job creation. Already in the first 10 months of this year we have created 1.9 million new jobs--higher than last year at this same time--which is a good start, but more needs to be done. Senators COONS and DURBIN and others have been discussing our Manufacturing Jobs in America initiative. In particular, we are talking about the skills necessary to succeed in today's economy--the skills Americans need to land and to keep good manufacturing jobs.

There used to be a time when a bright kid in this country could work hard in school, graduate with a high school diploma, and go work in a factory. He or she could make a decent living, a living wage, enough to raise a family and own a home and think about the future of their kids. Those days are long gone. Unfortunately, today's factories and plants don't look like they used to. The level of technical expertise needed to operate some new machinery is pretty high. That is why I have made career and technical education a priority. We need to have options for the bright kids after high school or that mid-career worker looking to shift gears.

My own State of Alaska is already a leader in career technical education--CTE. As these programs continue to innovate and change across the country, Alaska is in the forefront. I see it when I travel around the State. From career pathways in high schools to creative programs through the University of Alaska system, my State is a leader in career technical education.

To address these issues, I have introduced a bill entitled Investing in Innovation, otherwise called i3, which takes a look at what is happening in our local schools and puts resources into what is working. It supports and expands programs that are helping to improve student achievement. This bill requires 25 percent of the money to go to local rural communities. There are so many programs that sometimes forget our small and rural communities, not only in Alaska but throughout this country.

I have also introduced the Career Readiness package of legislation focused on career and technical education. One of the bills in this package is the Counseling for Career Choice Act. This bill will help fund stakeholders in developing comprehensive career counseling models that emphasize guiding students to productive careers.

Our counselors are in unique position to help expose and guide our students to postsecondary opportunities--to help prepare them for high-demand careers. This bill makes sure our school counselors have the resources they need to emphasize all types of postsecondary education, not just the traditional 4-year degree. It focuses on opportunities such as apprenticeships, certificate programs, associate degrees, and, of course, 4-year degrees. It makes sure that business, economic development, and industry leaders are at the table providing information on available postsecondary training opportunities and career trends--basically making sure that we match what we are teaching to not only what is available in the market today but in the future. Our students need the best teachers and the best facilities.

I also have legislation that focuses on career technical education, CTE, professional development for teachers and principals.

Another career readiness bill provides funding to make sure we are modernizing our CTE facilities.

We know students who are involved in career and technical education programs are engaged in their future careers. We have to keep making sure what our students learn is relevant to the real world. We must align our educational system with the in-demand careers to fill those jobs in that pipeline, and we must keep our students engaged.

If we are going to compete in the 21st century as we did in the 20th century, we need to make sure our students have the very best skills--skills that are tailored to the 21st century economy. Career and technical education is the best approach, in my opinion, to give students those skills.

I am a big fan of the Manufacturing Jobs for America initiative led by Senator Coons and several of my colleagues. America's manufacturing sector has enormous potential to create new jobs and to speed up our economy and economic recovery. These are good jobs and they spin off into even more jobs.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, every manufacturing job we create adds 1 1/2 jobs to the local economy. So let's move forward, let's pass these bills to help with job training, career facilities and readiness, and let's do everything we can to get our manufacturing sector running full speed ahead.

Before I conclude my remarks, let me say that I know there is a lot of debate on the floor where we talk about health care, we are talking about a national defense authorization bill, and we are going to talk about a compounding bill, but at the end of the day, what Americans, what Alaskans, come to me to talk about on a regular basis--and certainly it was true in the 4 1/2 days I just spent in Alaska--is what are we doing to create jobs for the future, not only for people today in the work environment but the kids of the future who will be in the work environment.

This legislation, and many other pieces that have been introduced in this package, help lead this economy and continue to move this economy. We have to remind ourselves where we are: This year, this month, we created over 200,000 jobs. The first month I came here, when I was sworn in, the economy was in a tailspin. We had lost over 700,000 jobs. So we have been in the positive trendline for several months here, but we have more to do. And an area that I think is an incredible opportunity not only for Alaska but for all across this country is improving our manufacturing sector and ensuring our young people are ready for the 21st century.

Again, I thank my friend Senator Coons for all the work he is doing to bring manufacturing to the forefront, as well as all my colleagues who have been coming to the floor to talk about an important piece of legislation to create jobs and improve our economy for the long term.

Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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