Durbin Visits Richland Community College to Discuss Closing "Skills Gap"

Senator Discusses Bill To Increase Technical Training, Business Partnerships at Community Colleges

[DECATUR, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) visited Richland Community College (RCC) today to discuss legislation he introduced to help community colleges train workers for high-needs technical jobs, many of which are currently going unfilled due to a lack of qualified employees in the workforce.  Durbin toured labs and met with students in RCC's Illinois Network for Advanced Manufacturing Earn and Learn Manufacturing Program, in which students complete industry-recognized certificates in disciplines like precision machining and renewable energy.  By helping its students build the skills they need to find work in those high-need fields, RCC is helping to close the skills-to-jobs mismatch that is often referred to as the nation's “skills gap.”


“While Decatur's unemployment rate is as high as it's been in thirty years, when I travel around the state I often hear how many good jobs in growing fields like healthcare, advanced manufacturing and energy going unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the right technical expertise,” Durbin said.  “As the largest and most affordable sector of the nation’s higher education system, community colleges like RCC are uniquely positioned to educate America's next generation of twenty-first century 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 in July, 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.


“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,” Durbin said.  “This bill is a critical investment in our future.  It will give workers a cost-effective opportunity to acquire skills necessary for a 21st century workforce and provide businesses with a pipeline of talent."


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