News Releases

Senator Murray Kicks Off Effort to Address Washington State Workforce Needs with U.S. Senate Hearing in Seattle

Nov 28 2007

Hearing brings together students, employers, workforce experts, educators and labor leaders to discuss how to connect educational priorities with the job skills needed in a global economy

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) chaired a hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety in Seattle, WA. The hearing focused on addressing the need for more highly-skilled workers and preparing students to fill job openings in Washington state and across the country. Washington state students, employers, labor leaders, educators and workforce experts joined together to discuss ways to meet this challenge. 

"The days when someone could move easily from high school to a family-wage job have long been a thing of the past," said Senator Murray. "The truth is that most new jobs require at least some education and training beyond high school, even at the entry-level. Unfortunately, we aren't doing enough to prepare our young people for these jobs."

"In order for us to truly address our workforce needs, we need to bridge the gaps between education and the skills employers are demanding. Today, we are bringing together workforce experts, students, employers, labor leaders, and educators to draw up a blueprint for success."

At the hearing, prominent labor leaders and workforce experts shared their thoughts on the problem:

"Currently we have more than 12,000 enrolled apprentices and our apprenticeship training centers are bursting at the seams," said Rick Bender, President, Washington State Labor Council 'There will be a continued need to train apprentices for the next eight to ten years at current or higher rates, not only for the work that is already sited and bid, but to replace the retiring construction workforce which is the oldest in American history.'

"Youth should be focusing on education because of work, and in addition to work," said Kris Stadelman, CEO, The Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. "When we show them the connection and allow them to learn in the context of the real world, they are less likely to drop out of high school. They are more likely to pursue further education and training. They learn social and work skills that cannot be taught in school. And they are given both the tools and the inspiration to forge their own futures."

Educators shared their views on what needs to be done:

"The common theme all educators must convey to individual students is, are you college ready? With college being defined as any education post high school," said John Aultman, Asst. Superintendent, Career and Technical Education, OSPI.  "This would include technical certificate programs, two year, four year, and apprenticeship programs."

Local employers discussed opportunities for growth:

"Clean Tech is now the third largest venture investment category, with projections boasting some $19 billion in investments by 2010 that is expected to create more than 500,000 new jobs," said David Allen, Vice President of Marketing, McKinstry Company and a key player in the development of the Washington Clean Technology Alliance. "The emerging Clean Tech industry is dependent on and committed to working with all interested parties to enhance worker training and education. We anticipate partnerships with trade unions, apprenticeship programs, workforce development organizations, community colleges, four year institutions and local government agencies will be required to meet the needs of the future."

And students shared solutions that work:

"I found out that not only could I get my diploma, I could also earn college credits at the same time, and at no cost. This was exactly what I needed," said Meisha Nash about the New Market Skills Center in Tumwater where she completing her high school education. "With newfound confidence, and skills and abilities I have learned, I will go much further in life. I am well on my way to getting my high school diploma and beginning to further my education at a community college."

To read the full testimony from the hearing visit: http://help.senate.gov/ and click on hearings.