News and Tribune

February 7, 2013

Donnelly to champion AMERICA Works Act again

Indiana senator sponsored failed bill in House in 2011

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite failing to get the bill out of committee during the 112th Congress, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., isn’t giving up on the AMERICA Works Act. 

The act would mandate the U.S. Department of Labor to put together a skills registry that would allow employers to list skills needed to fill open positions, and it would award federal funds to schools to teach those needed skills. 

“I toured 18 Indiana communities over four days last month and I listened to Hoosier employers,” Donnelly said in a press release. “They told me they are struggling to find workers who have the training they need. As our economy recovers, we must prioritize the right types of training and education programs available for Hoosiers to fill these jobs.” 

Donnelly, along with Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., sponsored a version of the bill when he was a member of the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress, but it died in committee. Donnelly has vowed to work with Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., to build bipartisan support for a Senate version of the bill. 

The bill would direct the use of public funds for designated programs in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act, Trade Adjustment Assistance and the Workforce Investment Act, or WiA, to develop necessary skills, and amends all three to give priority to training programs resulting in nationally portable, industry recognized credentials, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, which supports the bill. 

“Prioritizing nationally portable, industry-recognized credentials allows younger workers to know which credentials prepare them for entry-level jobs across the industry and ensures transitioning workers are focusing their training on filling skills gaps to help transition quickly to new jobs,” the NAM claims on its website.

Ivy Tech Community College also supports the legislation. 

“It creates jobs and training and it helps save the middle class,” said Jeff Fanter, Ivy Tech vice president of communications and marketing. “Eighty percent of the new jobs will require an associates degree or some type of shorter-term certificate. This bill supports training and putting people back to work.” 

Donnelly blamed the failure to pass the bill — which he says already has support on both sides of the aisle — on the 2012 election cycle, and predicted that 2013 would offer a more friendly political climate. 

“I think this is not an election year, so that really helps,” Donnelly said during a Thursday conference call with Indiana media. “People focus on just the merits of the bill, as opposed to any political implications of it. For me, I thought it was good politics for everybody because if we’re making our state grow, our country grow, I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican, we just want to move the country forward. 

“I think all of those political agendas that might have been stopping it last time have fallen to the side right now.” 

Another coalition in the House will reintroduce the bill, Donnelly said. 

“We hope to both double-track at the same time, that one will not wait for the other, that it move forward together,” he said.