Speaker Ryan Sends Skills Gap Bill to Trump

Bipartisan measure seeks to encourage improved training to match workers more effectively with hard-to-fill positions

Image Credit: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) forwarded to President Donald Trump legislation on Thursday that’s designed to fix the so-called skills gap.

“I am really excited about this bill,” Ryan told reporters during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill. “One obstacle workers across the country are facing today is there is a job that they want but they don’t quite have the right skills to take that job. We call this the skills gap.”

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act is written to address the skills gap by updating education and training to reflect the rapidly changing economy. Ryan said that the bill provides for a complete overhaul of the career and technical education systems.

“It is a big reason why, right now, we actually have more job openings in America than we have people looking for work,” Ryan said. “That’s a big piece of the skills gap. So the demand for skilled workers keeps growing, but Washington has been badly behind the curve on this. We have not properly equipped our education system. This changes that.”

Ryan forwarded the bill to Trump for his signature after the Senate approved the measure Tuesday. The House of Representatives passed the bill in June.

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The legislation simplifies the application process for receiving federal funds and allowing state and local governments to be more flexible in using them. The bill also encourages innovative training programs designed for specific jobs in demand.

The bill streamlines performance measures for career technical education programs, limits the federal role, and seeks to prevent political favoritism in distributing funds.

Ryan praised Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the measure’s primary sponsors.

Related: Trump Launches New Workforce Training Initiative

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in a 2011 report that the national economy is projected to produce 1 million fewer technical workers than are needed over the next decade.

And last year, PNC Financial Services found in a report that the demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills will explode over the next few years, and that more than a third of global manufacturers are having difficulty finding workers.

Trump signed an executive order establishing a new workforce initiative July 19, known as the National Council for the American Worker, that is focused on promoting and expanding job training programs such as apprenticeships.

The president also instructed the Department of Labor in a 2017 executive order last year to set up a task force to study the issue. The task force submitted its report to the president on May 10, along with its recommendations.

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