Bill to match skills, work

Mar 23, 2011
In The News


SOUTH BEND -- Few manufacturing jobs today only require an employee to stand at a machine and simply press buttons.

Instead, special training and skills are needed from most factory workers.

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, believes he has identified ways to more efficiently connect job seekers with prospective employers.

On Tuesday, Donnelly visited Schafer Gear Works in South Bend, where he announced his plan to introduce legislation called the AMERICA Works Act. The acronym stands for American Manufacturing Efficiency and Retraining Investment Collaboration Achievement.

The AMERICA Works Act was passed by the House in 2010 by a vote of 412-10, but it was not considered by the Senate and its sponsor did not return to the 112th Congress.

The goal of Donnelly's bill is twofold.

First, it would create a national registry of skill credentials. It would list credentials that are required by federal or state law for an occupation, and are from the Manufacturing Institute-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System.

It would also require a third party to validate the credentials to reflect evolving industry requirements.

Then, the bill would prioritize existing federal funding for educational programs that would offer workers the training they need to obtain the new portable credentials.

Donnelly said the proposed measure responds to manufacturers' need for a skilled work force, which he heard firsthand from industry experts during a recent industry summit in Indiana.

"When you walk into a business today, you have to know how to run the computers and the most complex machinery," Donnelly said.

"The goal is to quickly match skills with employers, and to create more jobs. This bill would enable us to identify areas where there is a specific need, and prioritize existing resources," he said.

Donnelly said the bill would allow workers the opportunity to obtain training from registered programs. Prospective employees can then place the industry-recognized and nationally portable credentials on their résumés.

"The employer will know the person can get the job done because they are going to have recognized skill sets," Donnelly said. "We will have a larger pool of very skilled workers for our employers."

Donnelly acknowledged that northern Indiana has been "somewhat ahead of the curve" in funding programs that are creating jobs.

"But this would make every dollar be used in an efficient fashion," he said, "and not toward programs that are not creating jobs."