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Ensuring Ohio workers have the skills needed to fill open jobs PDF Print
Saturday, July 20, 2013 12:02 AM

BY US SENATOR

SHERROD BROWN

 

Last week, I heard from Daniel Brewer, a Navy veteran from Cincinnati who could not find a good paying job after returning from Afghanistan. Though Daniel had substantial training in the Navy, moving home to Ohio, he had trouble translating his skills into the civilian workforce.

Daniel’s experience is all too common. Time and time again I’ve heard similar stories throughout Ohio: biotech firms, high-tech manufacturers, and small businesses are hiring for open positions, but can’t find the workers with the right skills to fill these job openings. With too many Ohioans still unable to find work, we should be doing all that we can to ensure that our workers are qualified to fill Ohio jobs.

Since 2007, I’ve convened more than 215 roundtables across Ohio’s 88 counties, listening to community and business leaders, workers, and entrepreneurs on ways to strengthen our economy. A theme that developed early on was that despite high unemployment, employers are having a hard time finding workers with the skills necessary to fill the available jobs. As a result, job openings in high-growth industries, like healthcare, clean energy, and biosciences, and even the manufacturing sector, are going unfilled.

According to Forbes, Ohio ranks 10th per capita in the nation among states expecting the biggest looming skilled labor shortage – due, in part, to an aging population and limited workforce training resources.

The skills gap exists – especially for careers in high-tech fields. This gap denies workers new opportunities they deserve and undermines our nation’s economic competitiveness. It also limits our state’s ability to attract new jobs and businesses.

In response to the stories I heard during my early roundtables throughout Ohio about the need to close the skills gap, I first introduced the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) in 2008. Last week, I reintroduced it with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

The SECTORS Act creates partnerships between educators, industry, and workforce training boards to ensure that workers have the right skills to get hired in high-tech, emerging industries with good-paying jobs. If we’re going to attract new employers, we need to ensure that local workforce development efforts support the needs of local industries. That’s what this bill does.

It means community colleges, whether it’s Cincinnati State, Tri-C, Zane State, and Sinclair State or Rhodes State, and workforce investment boards, industry, and labor, working together to serve local needs.

We know economic development and workforce skills training go hand-in-hand. We’ve seen this in Youngstown with NAMII. When the skilled workers are there, more investments follow. It’s not only good for businesses; this legislation is also important for Ohio families.

America has a unique opportunity to address the skills gap that prevents hardworking Americans—like Daniel Brewer—from finding good jobs and prohibits eager-to-grow companies from hiring the skilled workers needed to expand. We close the skills gap by going directly to the source of Ohio’s economic might: our skilled workers and innovative businesses.

 
The road to bedlam PDF Print
Saturday, July 20, 2013 12:02 AM

WASHINGTON — It is easy to understand how everyone in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case feels.

If I were Martin’s mother, I’d want his killer’s heart on a platter. If I were Zimmerman’s mother, I’d be grateful my son escaped greater injury, however he managed.

If I were African-American, I would fear for my sons and be furious at a system that condones vigilantism, and then acts as though naming a teen’s death a “tragedy” ends the discussion.

The list could go on. The point is that this is one of those rare instances in which everyone is right within his/her own experience. Blacks are right to perceive that Martin was followed because he was black, but it is wrong to presume that recognizing a racial characteristic is necessarily racist. It has been established that several burglaries in Zimmerman’s neighborhood involved primarily young black males.

Picture Zimmerman’s neighbor and defense witness Olivia Bertalan hiding in her locked bedroom with her infant and a pair of rusty scissors, while two young males, later identified as African-American, burglarized her home. They ran when police arrived.

This is not to justify what subsequently transpired between Zimmerman and Martin but to cast a dispassionate eye on reality. And no, just because a few black youths caused trouble doesn’t mean all black youths should be viewed suspiciously. This is so obvious a truth that it shouldn’t need saying and yet, if we are honest, we know that human nature includes the accumulation of evolved biases based on experience and survival. In the courtroom, it’s called profiling. In the real world, it’s called common sense.

One thing we can all agree upon without much strain is that this incident — this senseless, heartbreaking death — never should have happened. Zimmerman, who began acting as a watchman in 2004 and had made more than 40 calls to authorities over the years, never should have left his car once he had notified police, who told him to stay put.

We also can surmise that Zimmerman would not have followed Martin if Zimmerman weren’t carrying a gun. If Martin were perceived as dangerous, wouldn’t an unarmed individual keep his distance until police arrived?

Thus, we conclude that Zimmerman’s actions led to the confrontation that ultimately resulted in a fight that ended with the fatal shooting.

It never should have happened. And it didn’t have to.

The jury obviously felt that Zimmerman acted in self-defense or, at least, that the state failed to prove otherwise. It must have been a terrible conclusion to reach because, no matter what the legal definitions that guided them, it seems impossible that someone’s young son, guilty of nothing, should die while his killer walks. Adages become such for a reason: The law is an ass.

By the definitions, instructions and evidence — in other words, by the book — the jurors ruled as they could and justice feels ill-served.

So, yes, we understand how everyone feels. But feelings are like weather — they come and go and shift with time. Part of maturity — and fundamental to civilization — is learning to process feelings through thought, reflection and, in this case, debate.

Instead, in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, feelings have been magnified and exploited by enablers — from certain members of the media, who seem more like rapacious rabble-rousers than journalists, to professional activists who, in fact, thrive on disorder. This is a good time to recognize that activists with television shows are not, in fact, journalists. When Al Sharpton went to Florida to organize demands that Zimmerman be charged, he was acting as the civil rights activist he is, not as a broadcast journalist he plays on television. Now, as he proceeds to organize protests in 100 cities, he has a global bullhorn with which to sound his fury.

With such instigation, grass-roots quickly erupt into wildfires. News organizations can’t ignore news, obviously, but which came first: The death threats? Or the TV correspondent speculating whether Zimmerman would need to fear for his life?

As soon as passions cool, assuming we let them, the discussion that needs to take place surrounds a question: What was George Zimmerman doing walking around his neighborhood armed and loaded? In what world is this normal behavior?

The answer: Not a world most of us want to live in. Let’s start there.

Kathleen Parker’s email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 
Hiring Ohio workers first PDF Print
Saturday, June 29, 2013 12:00 AM

BY U.S. Senator

Sherrod Brown

 

The United States is a nation of immigrants. From the transcontinental railroad to today’s technological advancements on the information superhighway, immigrants have helped to build our nation. The solution to the immigration challenges we face won’t be simple, but now is the time to take a commonsense approach to immigration reform. That means ensuring that the immigration bill is also a jobs bill — one that gives American workers a fair chance at fair wage jobs.

At recent roundtables in Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo, I’ve been asking Ohioans their immigration reform priorities. There is almost unanimous agreement that we must fix our broken immigration policy.

The bipartisan Senate plan finishes the job of securing our borders. It also creates a fair, but thorough pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants that require them. It also creates an employment verification system — to crack down on employers who are hiring workers without documentation — that prevents identity theft, and brings jobs out of the shadows.

But while the proposal we’re debating on the Senate floor is a critical step forward, I believe there are ways we can improve it further so our immigration policy is also a good jobs policy.

That means ensuring that American companies seek out skilled American workers before seeking visas for foreign workers.

Right now, the H-1B program serves an important, but specific purpose. When American employers cannot find the technical workers essential to their operations, businesses can recruit foreign workers through this visa. But we need to make sure foreign workers aren’t being hired at the expense of Americans.

That’s why Senator Grassley (R-IA) and I introduced a bipartisan bill called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act of 2013. Our bill requires employers to make good faith efforts to hire Americans first and much of it was included in the immigration bill under Senate consideration.

Our work helped ensure that the immigration bill included a provision to require that employers to give American workers the first crack at a job opportunity before it can be filled with a visa holder. But during committee debate of the bill, our provision was altered so that employers now only have to take steps to recruit American workers they no longer have to give hiring preference to equally or better qualified American workers and can instead seek a visa for the foreign worker.

It is counterproductive to require employers to engage in additional recruiting steps designed to attract qualified U.S. workers without also requiring them to hire these workers if they apply.

If there are qualified Ohioans who can do the work, there is no need to fill a post with an H-1B worker. That’s why I’ve introduced an amendment to the immigration bill that will improve hiring practices of companies that temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations.

Our bipartisan amendment requires H-1B employers to first offer a position to an equally or better qualified American worker before seeking a visa to offer it to a foreign worker.

H-1B workers make a valuable contribution to our nation, but they should be hired when there is a demonstrable need not at the expense of a qualified Ohio worker is are ready, willing, and able to do a job.

 
Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation PDF Print
Saturday, June 22, 2013 12:21 AM

BY US SENATOR

SHERROD BROWN

 

For too many Ohio children, summer break doesn’t just mean a break from homework; it also means a break from a dependable source of nutritious food. That’s because for more than 800,000 Ohio children, hunger isn’t something that happens in another country. Many of these children come from families that are food insecure—meaning they don’t always know when they’ll get their next meal. These children know how difficult it is to focus on learning while trying to ignore the pangs of an empty stomach.

 
Fertility rites PDF Print
Saturday, June 22, 2013 12:20 AM

WASHINGTON — Distilled to a slogan, politics of late goes something like this: “I’m more fertile than you are.”

It seems fecundity is emerging as the best argument for public office, policy or even citizenship. What was once an unconscious appraisal — Is this person strong, healthy and vital? — has morphed into the sort of explicit review one usually associates with an X rating.

While male politicians have always strutted their stuff as a demonstration of virility and strength, most women until recently have had no such comparable public measures. Managing a household wasn’t viewed as favorably as, say, the ability to pitch a ball over home plate.

 
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