Putting Americans back to work

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

You have probably read the stories about how Republicans and Democrats can never get along and how it has caused absolutely nothing to get done in Washington. While that may make a good narrative for the media, it is not accurate.

In fact, just this past week, Congress came together in a bipartisan way to pass bills that will help put the American people back to work.

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I was especially proud of our bipartisan efforts to boost our nation’s career and technical education (CTE) programs. These programs are critical in helping connect Americans with the skills they need to find a good-paying job.

There is a false belief in our country that in order to be successful you have to obtain a four-year degree or more. That simply is not true. In fact, many Americans have successful lives after attending a community college or gaining a certificate from a training program. That is what career and technical education is all about.

Back when I served as chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, I saw these programs work firsthand. I saw individuals who had absolutely no background or prior training go through a welding program and end up with a great job that pays high wages. These programs truly work like magic.

CTE programs are so important in today’s economy because our country is experiencing a skills gap. This means there are jobs out there that remain unfilled because people lack the skills required to fill the jobs. This is limiting economic growth and hurting the overall economy. Well, CTE programs can help close that skills gap by giving people the training they need.

Our bipartisan bill, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education (CTE) for the 21st Century Act, makes important reforms to ensure our CTE programs are actually working and directs resources toward in-demand skill areas. Importantly, the bill ensures a limited role for the federal government while empowering state and local leaders.

Ultimately, improving career and technical education programs is the most important thing Congress can do to help close the skills gap, combat poverty and help put Americans back to work.

On another bipartisan note, the House also passed a bill last week to help people on welfare programs have access to jobs. The bill would establish a test program for states to create a targeted tax credit for employers who hire individuals on welfare programs.

The bill, the Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act, passed on a strong bipartisan vote of 377-34, and it makes progress on the important priority of encouraging work among welfare recipients.

As we continue our efforts to fight poverty, we must measure success by how many people we are getting off of welfare programs and back to work, not by how many people we are adding to welfare rolls.

Through improving career and technical education and encouraging work in welfare, there will be three big wins for the American people. First, we will help individuals live more successful lives by connecting them with jobs. Second, we will grow the overall American economy by closing the skills gap. Third, we will save taxpayers money by taking people off welfare and putting them to work.

So, while there are certainly issues where Republicans and Democrats do not agree, there are a large number of areas where we often come together and make a difference on behalf the American people.

That is exactly what we did this past week with our efforts to create more opportunities for the American people through boosting career and technical education and promoting work in our nation’s welfare programs.