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Crow Touts Workforce Development as Tool to Ease Labor Shortages

Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development under Chairman Jason Crow (D-CO) held a hearing exploring how Congress can utilize workforce development initiatives to combat labor shortages that impact small businesses. 

“The labor shortage impacts all businesses, but it particularly concerns our nation’s entrepreneurs. For many small firms, a general lack of applicants isn’t the problem, instead they aren’t finding qualified candidates, workers with the proper skills to do the job and do it well,” said Chairman Crow. “Guaranteeing an adequate number of skilled workers in the labor force could be the first step to smoothing out this rough labor market.”

The COVID-19 pandemic upended the American labor market. Between February and April of 2020, the U.S. economy shed 22 million jobs, and the unemployment rate skyrocketed from 3.5% to 14.8%. While the economy has recovered most of the jobs lost due to COVID, shortages in the labor market persist. The pandemic also slowed legal immigration, started a wave of early retirements, and forced many to exit the job market due to health concerns or family obligations, which helped fuel the current worker shortage.

The hearing allowed members to discuss how investments in workforce development, like those included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, can ensure an adequate number of skilled workers for small businesses.  During the hearing, witnesses testified on how initiatives like workforce boards, apprenticeships, community college, and career and technical education can all help upskill the American labor force.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes Prevailing Wage and Apprenticeship Utilization requirements, will make tremendous progress towards securing the needed workforce in all areas of our country,” said Gerald Lee Arnold, Business Manager & Financial Secretary Treasurer of Denver Pipefitters Local #208 in Denver, CO. “Using Registered Apprenticeship Programs to develop our future workers will not only help our county rebuild badly needed infrastructure projects, but also guarantee our many small businesses have access to the trained and qualified employees they need to succeed.”

“Our workforce programs, while innovative and responsive, are expensive to operate. For example, programs in healthcare and advanced manufacturing are in great demand, but are also among the most expensive programs to offer,” said Dr. Mordecai Ian Brownlee, Ed.D., President of Community College of Aurora in Aurora, CO. “To maintain our roles as leading providers of workforce training and maintain affordability for students, it is critical that we make meaningful investments in career and technical education infrastructure at community colleges.”

“The recently-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) offers an unprecedented opportunity to address these gaps—and accelerate momentum around careers that pay higher wages, require shorter-term credentials, and need a new generation of talent,” said Joseph W. Kane, Fellow at The Brookings Institution. “To maximize this opportunity, federal, state, and local leaders can’t just create short-term jobs—namely construction jobs—for the same people. They need to be ready to harness the IIJA funding and other potential federal funding in ways that expand opportunities to the full diversity of our workforce”



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