(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, released the following statement applauding President Obama on his new American Graduation Initiative to strengthen the community college system to help prepare workers for the jobs of the future.   

“I applaud President Obama for his proposal that underlines his strong commitment to students and working families.  This Administration understands that community colleges play a critical role in putting people back to work and keeping America competitive in the jobs of the future – from clean energy to health care to other high-skilled professions. Community colleges were a 20th century American invention and the American Graduation Initiative will help them remain viable in the 21st century.

 “Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their jobs in the past year, but many employers say they can’t find skilled workers to fill good-paying positions.  If we want to get our economy back on track and put people to work we have to address this disconnect.  Our community colleges are a direct pipeline from education to credentials that lead to jobs in growing industries  and I look forward to working with President Obama to strengthen the role of community colleges in preparing our students to fill the jobs of the future as well as linkages to the public workforce system so workers at all educational levels can receive the comprehensive services they need to get and keep a good job and progress upward in their careers.”

This Thursday, Senator Murray will be chairing a hearing of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee focused on acquiring a deeper understanding from the Administration and key stakeholders about how to best modernize the public workforce investment system to help workers and businesses rebuild and strengthen our economy. Among the witnesses at the Thursday hearing are Kathy Cooper from the Office of Adult Literacy, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges in Olympia, and Rick Bender, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, in Seattle.

Senator Murray has been a leader in the Senate on working to prepare our workers for the jobs of the future.  Last year she introduced The Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Careers Act, a major legislative proposal to help state and regional leaders increase graduation rates and prepare America’s next generation of highly skilled workers.  Senator Murray plans to reintroduce this bill this session.

Senator Murray has also been a strong advocate for strengthening community colleges.  She supported language in the Recovery Plan that authorized local workforce investment boards to contract with community colleges and other institutions of higher education and other eligible training providers for class-size occupational training in demand occupations.   Senator Murray also fought to ensure that recovery funding for clean-energy job training could be used at community colleges, and last year introduced legislation to end the growing practice of denying students at certain community and technical colleges and four-year colleges access to federally guaranteed students loans.