(Senate - May 16, 2019)

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[Pages S2927-S2928]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. KAINE (for himself and Mr. Portman):
  S. 1517. A bill to require the Secretary of Labor to award grants for 
promoting industry or sector partnerships to encourage industry growth 
and competitiveness and to improve worker training, retention, and 

[[Page S2928]]

as part of an infrastructure investment; to the Committee on Health, 
Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  Mr. KAINE. Mr. President. the U.S. infrastructure system is in 
critical need of an upgrade. The American Society of Civil Engineers 
recently graded the U.S. system a D+ given its capacity, condition, 
funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, 
resilience and innovation. Any investment to improve our country's 
infrastructure system would create millions of new jobs, requiring 
millions of skilled workers to fill them.
  A recent study by the Center of Education and the Workforce at 
Georgetown University estimated that a $1 trillion infrastructure 
investment would create 11 million new jobs. Nearly half of these would 
require training past the high school level. Even without a significant 
investment, though, infrastructure industries are already struggling to 
meet workforce demands. Workers in infrastructure industries are 
expected to retire at a 50% higher rate than the general workforce. To 
ensure infrastructure investments benefit businesses, workers and the 
economy, the U.S. must invest in the creation of a diverse pipeline of 
workers with skills necessary to access in-demand opportunities.
  Industry and sector partnerships are a proven strategy for helping 
workers prepare for middle-skill jobs and helping businesses find 
skilled workers. Congress requires States and local areas to support 
the development of these partnerships under the Workforce Innovation 
and Opportunity Act (WIOA), but no dedicated funding has been provided 
for these activities. According to a recent national poll, 77% of 
business leaders say it would help their business to create closer 
links between education providers and businesses to train people for 
the jobs for which businesses are hiring.
  For workers, especially those underrepresented in infrastructure 
industries, support services like career counseling, child care, and 
transportation can often be the key to succeed in work-based learning 
programs. Providing these services may be outside the capacity of a 
business. Industry partnerships bring business together with community 
and human service organizations that can make these connections for 
workers and drastically improve their ability to succeed in training 
and meet business demand for skilled workers.
  This is why I am pleased to introduce with my colleague, Senator 
Portman, the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for 
Skills Act or BUILDS Act. The BUILDS Act creates a grant program that 
would support industry and sector partnerships working with local 
businesses, industry associations and organizations, labor 
organizations, State and local workforce boards, economic development 
agencies and other partners engaged in their communities to encourage 
industry growth, competitiveness and collaboration to improve worker 
training, retention and advancement in targeted infrastructure 
clusters. Additionally, businesses and education providers would be 
connected to develop classroom curriculum to complement on-the-job 
learning and workers would receive support services such as mentoring 
and career counseling to ensure that they are successful from the pre-
employment to placement in a full-time position.
  Our Nation desperately needs improvements to critical infrastructure 
like our roads and bridges, however to do that work we must have a 
trained workforce that's ready to fill these good-paying jobs. Virginia 
businesses in the transportation, maritime, and information technology 
industries continue to tell me they have trouble finding job applicants 
with the necessary skills. This bill will help workers get the job 
training they need to be hired. I hope that my colleagues on both sides 
of the aisle consider the BUILDS Act as a necessary component to any 
investment in our Nation's infrastructure.