Portman Talks Retraining

ST. MARYS — An Ohio senator plans to introduce legislation that could help local manufacturing operations find skilled workers to fill open positions.

During a teleconference with regional media, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman revealed his intentions to introduce legislation that would tackle worker retraining efforts. The Republican said he also plans to work across the aisle to help get the measures through Congress.

“I’m excited about it,” Portman said of the worker retraining measure. “At a time when we’ve got this high unemployment over 8 percent for 43 months in a row, we should be doing a better job matching workers with the needs in our economy.”

Portman said his measure would retool the federal retraining program to more effectively match workers with employers who have vacancies.

“There’s a recent survey showing that 74 percent of manufacturers are experiencing workforce shortages for skilled positions,” Portman said. “At a time when you have high unemployment — and I find it all the time in Ohio — manufacturers saying they just don’t have the workers they need to expand operations and take advantage of new business opportunities. They are looking for people.”

Portman called the current worker retraining programs inefficient and full of redundancies. The senator also said there is a “lack of any measurement” regarding the programs.

“There’s very little known about the effectiveness of these programs,” Portman said. “So that’s what our legislation attempts to do. We worked closely with the Ohio Community Colleges on this, also Ohio employers and folks who are in worker retraining to come up with sensible ideas to help steer dollars to programs that do equipment workers with skills that are in demand. It has a new, innovative pay-for-performance model so it provides more incentives — private sector type incentives in the worker retraining system. It also requires the president to submit to Congress a plan for dealing with the redundancy  in job training. We point out some of the redundancies ... We think this is a way to make worker retraining more responsive to the needs of employers, to ensure the more efficient use of taxpayer dollars and to connect unemployed folks with good-paying jobs.”