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New bill addresses skills gap between businesses, community colleges

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) recently introduced a bill to help close the skills gap--where jobs go unfilled because businesses cannot find workers with the right skills--by fostering partnerships between community and technical colleges and businesses to train students to fill high-demand jobs in Minnesota and across the country.

U.S. Representative George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced the legislation in the House last month.

Franken and Miller's Community College to Career Fund Act will create partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses to train two million Americans for jobs in high-demand industries, such as health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information technology.

"I've sat down with far too many businesses across Minnesota that have job openings they can't fill, because they can't find workers with the right skills," said Franken. "But based on the successful partnerships I've seen in Minnesota--where businesses and community colleges come together to train the workers they need--I know there's a commonsense way to solve this problem and get people to work, which is why I'm introducing this bill."

The Community College to Career Fund Act will create a competitive grant program that will fund partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to address the skills gap. These partnerships will focus on valuable job training-related efforts, such as registered apprenticeships, on-the-job training opportunities, and paid internships for low-income students that allow them simultaneously to earn credit for work-based learning in a high-skill field. The Fund will encourage businesses to locate and invest in the U.S. because the training available will help provide a skilled workforce. And by training local workers in the skills businesses need it will also help communities, especially rural communities, keep local talent in their community.

In Minnesota, the legislation is supported by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Dunwoody College of Technology, Hennepin Technical College, South Central College, the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, EJ Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, and Wyoming Machine. Nationally, the legislation is supported by the National Skills Coalition, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of Community Colleges Trustees, and the Center for Law & Social Policy (CLASP).