December 21, 2019
As we come to the end of a successful year, I am proud of the work we’ve gotten done for America under President Trump. You wouldn’t believe it looking at the mainstream media, but good things are happening. Since President Trump took office, we’ve seen the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, created 3.5 million jobs and have watched wages increase by 3.2 percent this year. Yet, despite this historic economic landscape, I hear from business owners across Oklahoma that more needs to be done to develop skilled workers.
As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’ve made workforce development a priority. While the national unemployment rate is at a 50 year low of 3.5 percent, military spouses have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country because of frequent moves. In the recently-passed fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, we support military spouses by doubling the reimbursement they get from the cost of obtaining new professional licenses or credentials when they move. The bill also urges states to make it easier for them to move their licenses across state lines.
Still, we must do more to encourage and make it possible for young people to seek high-paying, technical careers. Skilled employment is a good choice for young Oklahomans who want to build a career without a costly higher education degree.
Today, the aviation maintenance industry bears the cost of retraining aviation maintenance technician graduates required to maintain a modern, sophisticated aircraft. This gap between available education and the needs of the aviation industry sector is why I introduced the PARTT 147 Act. Innovation and technical advances in the aviation maintenance industry have led to safer and more efficient aircraft, yet outdated regulations prevent schools from implementing modern curriculum. My bill would empower schools, like Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, with the flexibility to teach core curriculum that is reflective of the ongoing technical advances happening across the aviation and aerospace industry, ensuring successful school graduates can become productive mechanics on the flight line or maintenance floor. Schools like OSU’s Institute of Technology in Okmulgee and Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton and businesses like American Airlines, AAR Corporation, Kratos, Johnson Controls, Big Elk Energy and DitchWitch reap the benefits of this investment too.
In addition to expanding opportunities for the aviation industry, I introduced the Generating Real Opportunities for Workforce Training and Hiring (GROWTH) Act to address the concerns of Oklahoma businesses. As we look to build a 21st century infrastructure to support our 21st century economy, we must focus on the workforce. In the next two years, the Oklahoma construction and manufacturing industry expects to hire 5,600 additional employees. My bill would establish grants to educate and employ future transportation construction professionals to meet the ever-growing workforce demands. It would also expand the use of 529 education savings plans to include transportation expenses for students traveling to and from career and technical institutions.
Lastly, the GROWTH Act increases opportunities for small businesses by expanding the Small Business Administration’s 504 loan program to include workforce development in its public policy goals. This will allow more businesses to receive loans and ensure that investments made in local communities stay in local communities while helping us recruit new businesses and companies to call Oklahoma home.
Investing in our workforce means investing in our economy. As we approach the new year, we must continue to find ways to improve the value of career and technical education and workforce development. I look forward to shepherding these priorities through Congress and on to the president’s desk in 2020. Let’s keep moving forward.