Senator Murray touts new jobs legislation

Aug 18, 2011

It seems like everyone is talking about the J word lately. That would be JOBS. The President was on the road in the Midwest talking about them this week.

Now Democratic Senator Patty Murray spent a couple hours at a local Seattle factory talking about how to keep them, how to create them and how to train people for them.

Murray showed up at Machinists Inc., a parts manufacturer in South Park, to talk about the unmet demands for skilled labor in the manufacturing industry. A thought that seems counter-intuitive in these times of such high unemployment.

There are 19,000 open positions in the Seattle area, said Murray, and they'll remain vacant until workers receive proper training to fill them.

"This doesn’t make sense to me," she said. "We have workers who want to work. We have businesses that want to hire. So we have to do a better job as a nation at bridging that skills gap."

Government's role

The best way to do that, said Murray, is by updating the nations Workforce Investment Act, which has remained unchanged since it passed back in 1998.  

The goal is to modernize job training and create a direct pipeline between employers and the labor market so that workers who enroll in training programs can step out of the classroom and into a job.    

Murray said she hopes to launch a federal program called Earn and Learn, wherein employees can augment their skills by continuing work and attend specialized skill development classes.

Another program Murray is pushing is the Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Careers Act. The bill would allocate over $900 million in federal grants to state-run job training programs in growing sectors like energy, healthcare and manufacturing for middle and high-school students.

Key for business growth

Machinists Inc. President, Hugh LaBossier, said these types of federal programs are key in helping his business grow. The company is partnering with the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee – AJAC – to train 17 workers over four years to become journey-level machinists, which will inevitably lead to increased pay.

La Bossier said that despite the good pay, finding people who want to get into the manufacturing trade is tough.

"A lot of people don’t realize they can make a really good living being a machinist or a mechanic or a maintenance guy."

He said this is great time to get into manufacturing. Since mid-2010 the company has been expanding – they've hired 20 new workers, an increase of 15%.  

His company is typical of the manufacturing sector which has experienced an upswing since June of this year, according the Institute for Supply Management. That, coupled with an aging skilled labor force should make for a lot of new jobs, said La Bossier.