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WORDS FROM WASHINGTON

Investing in SKILLS will help Americans get better paying jobs

This week, the House of Representatives passed, with bipartisan support, the "Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act." The SKILLS Act will reform our country's broken workforce training system and help get Americans back to work.

Many Central Washington workforce-training centers have been successful and helped unemployed workers find jobs. However, on the federal level, much improvement can be made. Job seekers currently face a maze of overlapping programs and an inefficient, bureaucratic training system, making it difficult to get the skills they need to compete for a job in today's economy.

With roughly 12 million Americans out of work and 3.6 million job openings unfilled, we must look at ways to modernize and reform our federal workforce development programs.

Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act 15 years ago to better coordinate job search assistance, career development and job training services. Today, nine federal agencies administer more than 50 government job-training programs, 44 of which overlap each other. This kind of bureaucratic redundancy wastes too much taxpayer money and, frankly, needs better accountability and transparency to help lower our country's disappointing unemployment rate.

The SKILLS Act provides much-needed updates and improvements to America's workforce training system. By eliminating and streamlining 35 of these duplicative and inefficient federal programs, job training services will be more cost efficient and provide workers with the tools they need to find a job. The bill will eliminate red tape and empower Americans to compete in the 21st century workforce.

The SKILLS Act will also give Washington state more flexibility to tailor our job training programs to meet the needs for occupations in-demand. Too often, we hear of our soldiers returning from war and not being able to find work. The SKILLS Act better serves veterans by providing support and equipping them with critical job training services in order to find good paying jobs.

As a former small business owner, I recognize the challenges many employers face in finding candidates with the proper qualifications to hire. The SKILLS Act saves taxpayer dollars and helps job seekers develop the skills and tools they need to compete in this tough economy.

Making sure Washington state maintains a dynamic workforce is critical to growing our economy. The "Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act" is a common-sense bill that supports employers who seek skilled employees and makes it easier for job seekers to pursue the American Dream. It is now time for the Senate to act on these important reforms to help more Americans get back to work.

- U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central

Washington's Fourth Congressional District.

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