News Releases

Senator Murray Holds Hearing on Preparing Workers for Jobs of the Future

Jul 16 2009

Murray questions Washington state witnesses, discusses aerospace and health care workforce challenges

Listen to :
Senator Murray’s Opening Statement
Q&A with administration witnesses
Q&A with Washington state, other witnesses

Watch a video of the hearing

(Washington D.C.) –Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) presided over a bi-partisan hearing of the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety Hearing on “Modernizing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 to Help Workers and Employers Meet the Changing Demands of a Global Market.”
Senator Murray heard from witnesses on how government can be a partner with states and communities in building a competitive and skilled workforce. Representatives from the Department of Labor and the Department of Education testified about their work at the federal level, and the subcommittee heard from labor and workforce experts from across the country on local and state efforts. 

Washington state witnesses included Rick Bender, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO (Listen to his opening statement at minute 89:00), and Kathy Cooper, Policy Associate, Office of Adult Literacy, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (Listen to her opening statement at minute 107:00).

Senator Murray discussed the Washington state aerospace industry workforce in her opening remarks:

“As Rick Bender knows, we are working hard in Washington state to ensure that one of our greatest state resources- our highly skilled and competitive aerospace workforce- gets the resources and support they need to continue to compete in the global economy.

“Particularly in the Puget Sound region, our aerospace industry is the lifeblood of many communities.  But our skilled workforce– like machinists – are aging out of their jobs and we haven’t done enough to train the next generation of workers. We need to think more strategically about how we align our training needs with our larger economic goals.”

Murray also discussed her work ensuring that we have a well trained health care workforce

“Like some others in this room, I am very involved in the work we are doing to reform our health care system. And one of the issues we are working on is that at the same time so many workers are struggling to find jobs, there are hospitals and health clinics that are having trouble finding workers with the right skills to fill positions.

“There are literally thousands of jobs just waiting for skilled workers to fill them. So we need to do a better job of matching up the skills of our workers with the needs of our industries.

“That is why I helped write the section of the health care bill we passed yesterday in the HELP committee.   That section provides resources to our states to work with key partners to develop a coherent and comprehensive strategy for training their health care workforce. And it also makes a number of investments to recruit and train health care workers, because I believe that investing in a skilled health care workforce will benefit all of us.

“It will help our health care system—and it will help workers get good, family-sustaining jobs.”

Senator Murray’s full opening statement follows:

“This hearing of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety will come to order.

“Before we begin, I’d like to recognize Senator Kennedy for his leadership on workforce development and the workforce investment system in particular. We miss him and send him our best.

“I also want to thank two individuals who took the time to fly in from my home state of Washington to be with us today.

“Kathy Cooper from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges who has done so much in Washington state to keep our workforce competitive.

“And Rick Bender, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO—a passionate advocate for investing in our workers and our economy.

“Throughout my time on this Committee, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Members from both sides of the aisle who are committed to helping workers access the skills training and education they need to be successful in workplace.

“I’d like to specifically thank Senator Enzi, Senator Isakson, and their staffs along with Senator Kennedy’s staff for their great bi-partisan work on this issue. 

“Helping workers and employers access the information and services they need to be competitive is a win for everyone. It’s a win for workers, a win for employers, and a big win for our economy 

“I believe now, more than ever, that building a competitive and skilled workforce is the issue that will make or break us as a nation.  Because where the skilled workers are, the jobs will follow.

 “As Rick Bender knows, we are working hard in Washington state to ensure that one of our greatest state resources- our highly skilled and competitive aerospace workforce- gets the resources and support they need to continue to compete in the global economy.

“Particularly in the Puget Sound region – our aerospace industry is the lifeblood of many communities.  But our skilled workforce– like machinists – are aging out of their jobs and we haven’t done enough to train the next generation of workers. We need to think more strategically about how we align our training needs with our larger economic goals.

“Earlier this week we learned that nearly 330,000 people are unemployed and looking for work in Washington state.  Other workers are underemployed, or have even stopped looking, because they believe there are no jobs available for them. 

“Like some others in this room, I am very involved in the work we are doing to reform our health care system. And one of the issues we are working on is that at the same time so many workers are struggling to find jobs, there are hospitals and health clinics that are having trouble finding workers with the right skills to fill positions.

“There are literally thousands of jobs just waiting for skilled workers to fill them. So we need to do a better job of matching up the skills of our workers with the needs of our industries.

“That is why I helped write the section of the health care bill we passed yesterday in the HELP committee.   That section provides resources to our states to work with key partners to develop a coherent and comprehensive strategy for training their health care workforce. And it also makes a number of investments to recruit and train health care workers, because I believe that investing in a skilled health care workforce will benefit all of us.

“It will help our health care system—and it will help workers get good, family-sustaining jobs. 

“And in this tough economic climate, nothing could be more important than investing in our workers and rebuilding our economic strength.

“That’s why I joined my colleagues in a bi-partisan effort beginning last fall to modernize and reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, the legislative cornerstone of our nation’s workforce development system.

“We have spent hours together listening to stakeholders about what’s worked well, what should be eliminated, and what ideas they have for innovative change.  And I am excited to be here to continue that conversation today. 

“The public workforce investment system established under WIA provides a framework for these conversations to happen at the state and regional levels – and that’s important because workers look for jobs and employers hire in their own communities.

“It’s also important that that our states and communities make strategic connections between their workforce development efforts and what they teach their young people in the classrooms in high school and beyond.

“That is why in addition to working on reauthorizing WIA, I am also working on reintroducing my Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Careers Act—a major legislative proposal to help state and regional leaders increase high school graduation rates and prepare America’s next generation of highly skilled workers.

“Because if we don’t take a comprehensive approach to preparing all of America’s workers for the demands of a highly competitive and constantly changing economy, many will continue to fall behind.  

“And, that’s a price that our nation cannot afford to pay.

“Since last November, I’ve made it clear that I want to work with the Administration on workforce development initiatives – and in particular, the modernization and reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. 

“This Committee has a long history and a wealth of knowledge on this issue, which we hope the Administration will take advantage of as we work to modernize and reauthorize WIA. 

“We look forward to a productive partnership, including the Departments of Labor and Education. 

“Before I close, I’d like to make a request of my colleagues, the Administration, and all of the stakeholders who serve workers, job seekers, and employers every day:  Let’s work together to reach a consensus and move forward now. 

“America’s working families deserve nothing less.

“I’ll turn to Senators Enzi and Isakson for their opening statements.   Then, I’ll introduce our first panel and turn to them for their statements.”