WASHINGTON – Congress sought the advice of states Wednesday as two governors told the House Education and the Workforce committee about their strategies to improve job markets on their home turf.
According to Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., the economy has improved within the past year, but there are still too many jobless Americans. The unemployment rate has dipped from 9.1 percent a year ago to 8.5 percent.
“These facts may demonstrate modest progress but far too many Americans continue to face significant hardship in this tough economy,” Kline said. “The number of Americans participating in the labor force is at its lowest level in 28 years.”
For counsel, Kline’s committee turned to a heartland governor and another leader from New England.
Michigan’s Rick Snyder, a Republican, and Connecticut’s Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, testified about innovative strategies for job creation in their states.
In Michigan, unemployment now rests at 9.3 percent, down from 10.7 percent in January 2011. Connecticut has also seen a decrease from 9.0 to 8.2 percent.
Besides employment, the session with Snyder and Malloy also focused on how to best prepare students for the job market to improve work prospects as adults.
For Snyder, Michigan’s economic improvement includes basic steps like balancing the state’s budget and eliminating some tax credits, but also more creative moves that help workers get additional information about the jobs available in the state.
“The reason I use the word talent instead of work force is while I believe work force development is very important, it’s inadequate as a solution to deal with unemployment,” Snyder said. “Work force tends to deal with creating opportunities and giving people skills. That’s simply not good enough.”
To develop “talent,” Snyder said he relies on three steps: creating, collaborating and connecting. In regard to collaboration and connection, Snyder said he put in place Pure Michigan Talent Connect, an online portal where employers can post the available jobs and list the skills necessary.
Besides helping the job market, both governors agreed improvements must be made in public education.
Under the Obama administration’s American Job Acts, $25 billion will be used to repair and renovate schools across the country. Snyder said infrastructure improvements at schools and other facilities are important, but states need to be selective when choosing projects.
“We need to be much more thoughtful about making sure what are the highest-asset allocations as opposed to simply making sure we’re doing projects. And that they’re going to the jurisdictions that need the most,” he said.
Malloy added that a “seamless” system must be created to make it easier for people to gain the necessary skills employers and corporations require.