Durbin Visits McHenry County College to Discuss Closing "Skills Gap"

[CRYSTAL LAKE, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) visited McHenry County College (MCC) today to discuss legislation he introduced to help community colleges train workers for high-need technical jobs, many of which are currently going unfilled due to a lack of qualified employees in the workforce. Durbin toured MCC’s new manufacturing and robotics labs and met with students and employers who often hire the program’s graduates. The college developed many of its programs after surveying local employers about the skills they feel employers most need, helping close the skills-to-jobs mismatch that is often referred to as the nation’s “skills gap.”

“When I travel around Illinois I often hear how many good manufacturing jobs are going unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the right technical expertise. Here in McHenry County, manufacturing is currently the top employment sector,” Durbin said. “Our nation’s economy is evolving at a rapid rate and in order to close the nation’s skills gap our educational system needs to be as dynamic as our economy. MCC is working to bridge the gap by giving its students the skills they need to find work. As the largest and most affordable sector of the nation’s higher education system, community colleges are uniquely positioned to educate America's next generation of workers. That's why I've introduced legislation giving community colleges the support they need to expand their good work and ensure that working families have the skills and information to succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Durbin's legislation, which he and U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced last year, will help create partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses to train two million Americans for jobs in high-demand industries such as health care, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and information technology. The Community College to Career Fund Act authorizes $8 billion to create a competitive grant program to fund those partnerships, focusing on job-training efforts like registered apprenticeships, on-the-job training opportunities and paid internships for low-income students that simultaneously grant credits for work-based learning.

The bill contains incentives for these programs to help students find employment, setting aside additional money for programs with high job placement rates. It also makes grants available to states, so that they may work with businesses having trouble filling vacant positions, and to entrepreneurs seeking to start their own business.

The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that as many as 600,000 current job openings stem from the skills gap.