News Releases

Education Secretary Calls Murray Effort to Create Partnerships that Build Job Skills "Hugely Important"

Jun 03 2009

At Senate hearing, Murray discusses her bill to build local coalitions with schools, colleges, businesses, labor, and workforce experts to get students the skills they'll need to enter 21st Century careers

WATCH webcast of hearing – (Murray Q and A with Secretary Duncan begins at 59:30 – Murray opening statement begins at 25:00)
LISTEN to Senator Murray’s Opening Statement
LISTEN to Senator Murray Question Secretary Duncan

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the need to focus education efforts on ensuring young people have the job skills necessary to access jobs in the 21st Century global economy. At the hearing, Senator Murray discussed what she has heard from some Washington state employers about the limitations of some students entering the marketplace:

“When I talk to employers in my state - whether it is pioneering clean-energy companies, construction officials, boat builders, or high-tech employers - they all have the same message:  the students graduating from high school and college often don’t have the skills I need to keep my company strong,” said Senator Murray. “Meanwhile, our schools often feel overwhelmed at the amount they are asked to take on to prepare our students. “

To address the skills gap, Senator Murray has proposed the Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Skills Act, a bill that provides federal funding to build local partnerships to address the needs of a given region. Senator Murray discussed the bill at today’s hearing:

“I believe it has become clear that when it comes to bridging the skills gap between younger students, postsecondary education, and employers – no one group can handle the burden alone,” Murray said.  “Instead, I believe we need to focus on creating strong partnerships that bring schools, colleges, business, labor and workforce experts together locally to design systems that work in their regions.”

Senator Murray then asked Secretary Duncan about the need to promote these partnerships as a way to improve student’s pathways into local skilled jobs:

“Secretary Duncan, in the President’s budget, do you see a place for promoting these partnerships?” Murray asked.
“That is hugely important,” Secretary Duncan said. “It’s so important that we are preparing our students for real jobs and building those pipelines and working very closely with those local partnerships. Some places you see great, great partnerships, some places you don’t. But whatever we can do to make sure those employers are actually helping to shape the curriculum and helping to shape the opportunities our high school students as well as our community college students have. We can’t do enough there. We have to tie education to the real world.”

Today’s hearing was of the Senate Labor, Health, Human Services, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, of which Senator Murray is a senior member. The hearing was called to review Education efforts in the Obama Administration and their Fiscal Year 2010 Budget request.

Secretary Duncan also discussed his support for Senator Murray’s Striving Readers Act to promote adolescent literacy at today’s hearing by noting that the Administration’s budget doubled funding for the program. (Secretary Duncan’s statement begins at 29:35 on webcast)