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Heritage papers: Work training programs can help jumpstart economy

July 17, 2014
Opinion Editorial

 For many Americans, the dream of a comfortable middle-class existence seems increasingly out of reach. I've heard from many people at my town hall meetings and coffee hours who are disappointed with the inability of a big federal government to help bring the dream back.  Washington is actually making it tougher to make ends meet through misguided policies which raise household costs while decreasing take-home pay.

For example, the President's health care law has increased a family health plan in Michigan by 9.5% and the President's new carbon regulations will, in his own words, "necessarily increase energy costs" for all households.   A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans believe the government is the second biggest problem facing this country – only trailing our continued anemic job market.  Meanwhile, household incomes are declining while everyday expenses like gas and groceries are going up.

Instead of settling for the status quo, I've been working with my colleagues to promote policies that will break this cycle of growing government and start growing our economy once again.  By focusing on the individually driven core principles of education, work and family, we can get not only ease the squeeze now, but can lay the foundation for a healthy economy.

As a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I recognize the federal role in education should be in support of local and state policies that are focused on the needs of individual communities. For this reason, the House passed the Student Success Act last year to support local and state funding for education without creating overbearing mandates.  The House's approach to education empowers local communities to fix our education system and provide opportunities for young individuals to learn the skills they need to have productive careers and lives.

However, there are also existing workers that have fallen behind in skills due to the struggling economy.  Consequently, Congress recently announced a bipartisan, bicameral policy to improve work training programs. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will help Americans attain the skills required for today's workforce, while giving communities the tools necessary to meet their specific employment and workforce needs.  Retraining is especially important because there are currently 600,000 skilled job openings in the U.S. and 50,000 in Michigan alone.  The fundamental skills learned through Student Success Act and WIOA will bring much needed assistance for help putting Americans back to work.

Just as our workforce is training for existing and future jobs, Congress must also look to establish policies that support job growth rather than hinder it so there is a stable stream of new jobs being created for existing and future workers.   My colleagues and I in the House have already passed dozens of jobs related bills, including legislation to increase worker's wages by restoring the 40-hour work week changed under the President's health care law a bipartisan bill to invest in ports and waterway related infrastructure projects important to manufacturers and farmers in Michigan, and legislation which would make paying for college and getting a good education easier.

The federal government should focus on helping individuals attain an education and become trained for the modern workforce, while implementing policies that encourage hiring and economic growth. Congress needs to remain committed and show a good-faith effort to reforming federal policies which will help grow a healthy economy, expand opportunity and help more people find and keep a good-paying job.

 To read the original article at Heritage.com, click here. 

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