Posted on March 30, 2011 4:52 PM
New Bipartisan Bill to Support Regional Employment Clusters
A skilled labor force does not develop on its own; strategic investments in education and workforce development that connect these systems to the needs of employers are needed. However, the needs of employers often do not align with the training provided through workforce training and education programs. GO TO 2040 recommends that, in order to create a high-quality labor force for the region, workforce development programs be better coordinated with employers’ needs. Under the current system, this is quite challenging due to the large number and variety of organizations involved in training. However, recently proposed legislation could assist in facilitating that coordination.
On March 29, 2011, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) announced the SECTORS Act (Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Successes). Developed with the National Skills Coalition and others, this legislation would encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors to develop and implement plans focused on growing a particular industry and targeting workforce training to that employment cluster. If successfully passed, the legislation would provide one-year planning grants of up to $250,000 and three-year implementation grants of up to $2.5 million. The Act was first introduced to both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in April 2009 and was unanimously passed by the House in July 2010.
While the SECTORS Act focuses on improving workforce development, the American COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which supports economic innovation through investment in research and development and education, was signed in January 2011. An aspect of the COMPETES Act was the creation of a “regional innovation program” to “encourage and support the development of regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters.” Read more about the reauthorization on our Policy Updates blog. This regional, cluster-based approach to innovation and workforce development is a step in the right direction to improving the human capital of metropolitan Chicago.