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Bonamici Bill Will Help Employees Gain Skills Needed by Local Companies

March 5, 2013
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) today reintroduced the Workforce Infrastructure for Skilled Employees (WISE) Investment Act. The legislation will establish a pilot program to provide grants to eligible workforce investment boards, community colleges, community-based organizations, apprenticeship training programs, and other vocational institutions to hire local business liaisons who will identify and analyze existing skills gaps and find ways to address them.

“We have an unemployment rate near 8 percent and nearly 3 million job vacancies nationwide. Something isn’t adding up,” Bonamici said. “When I talk to small business owners in Oregon, they frequently say that finding qualified workers is a challenge in filling open positions. The WISE Investment Act is designed to help eliminate that disconnect.”

Local business liaisons funded through the legislation will conduct a strategic skills gap assessment – to identify employment opportunities that are difficult to fill, areas of growth and decline among industries, and the skills of unemployed or underemployed individuals. The findings of the assessment will inform a strategic skills gap action plan – a road map for addressing the identified skills gaps in the region.

Bonamici introduced the same legislation last year during the 112th Congress. Prior to introducing the bill, she consulted with a number of representatives from local businesses, community colleges, and workforce investment boards across Oregon’s First District.

Last year, Sherl Hill, Vice President and General Manager at Freelin-Wade Manufacturing participated in a workforce development roundtable led by Bonamici at Chemeketa Community College in McMinnville. “Freelin-Wade depends on employees with a diverse array of skills—ranging from computer skills to manufacturing process expertise—to remain competitive. New consumer demands necessitates that workers must constantly update their skills. To maintain their bottom line, Freelin-Wade has had to invest in internal training programs to close gaps between employee capabilities and customer requirements. Congresswoman Bonamici’s bill will help us address the skills gap in our region and allow us to focus on maintaining and creating new jobs.”