To the Editor:
The term “skills gap” seems to have become a common part of our vocabulary these days. What is it? It is millions of Americans out of work, partially due to a lack of ability (skill) to qualify for the jobs in this new century. Despite the economic doldrums of the past few years, the manufacturing and business communities have moved ahead, but the ability and knowledge of job seekers has not completely kept up, despite efforts by colleges to prepare new workers for the new jobs. Businesses need workers with certain skills. Job seekers need to find places where they can acquire those skills. And there needs to be an efficient way to put employers and job seekers together.
The Rhode Island Senate recently approved legislation to establish an easy-to-use, computer-based program to efficiently identify and address skills gaps among job seekers. The legislation (2013-S 0403), which I introduced this year, is intended to facilitate local employers’ access to high quality local job seekers. It enhances the Department of Labor and Training’s current ability to ensure that employers and job seekers have easy access to job matches and training opportunities.
The Jobs Match Program legislation is all about collaboration and working together to achieve a goal the Senate has been focused on for several years, and that includes ensuring the labor force is equipped with the skills employers need, that workforce development is a focus at all levels of government and education, and that we continue to build partnerships to achieve greater success in addressing skills gaps.
The legislation seeks to strengthen statewide interagency collaborations, enhance the current state workforce development and job match system and address skill gaps in a manner that aligns with business and industry needs. The legislation acknowledges that the state’s career pathways system must be driven by local business and industry needs and calls on the state to make a focused effort to provide easy access for businesses to find competent employees and for job seekers to obtain necessary resources, training and skills development.
The legislation directs the Department of Labor and Training to implement the Enhanced Job Match System, using the department’s existing web-based workforce and job system as a basis. The first requirement of the web-based system enumerated in the bill is that it be easy for employers to participate in, update and receive responses from job seekers. Skill gaps would be identified quickly, and steps taken through training or education to address identified skill gaps. The system would be advertised and promoted to maximize business and employment use.
Rhode Island needs to take a cross-departmental approach to build upon the efforts of the Department of Labor and Training to facilitate employers’ access to high quality, skilled job seekers and to reduce the number of unemployed individuals in Rhode Island. The jobs match bill will help pave the way for that to happen.
James C. Sheehan
Senator District 36