With President Barack Obama’s jobs bill blocked by the Democrat-controlled Senate, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday he will propose pieces of the measure that he’s hoping can get bipartisan support.
At a press conference with the Capital Workforce Partners at the CTWorks Career Center in Hartford, Blumenthal focused on a disconnect between the training of Connecticut’s workforce and the needs of the state’s employers. He said his job creation proposal will include grants for programs that re-train workers.
“This kind of jobs training, skill-based measure provides common ground, a starting point for consensus. There is nothing partisan about skill training and about the relatively small amount of money that are required for this kind of program,” he said.
Capital Workforce Partners President and CEO Tom Phillips said the president’s jobs bill included about $5 billion for organizations like CWP, which coordinates programs to develop and educate the workforce. Blumenthal’s proposal would restore restore those funds.
Phillips said the demand for those resources has risen significantly since the beginning of the recession. Annually more than 40,000 people visit CTWorks Career Centers like the one where the press conference was held. And the profile of the people looking for assistance has changed, he said.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who are experiencing unemployment for the first time in their careers, looking to retool their skill sets to be competitive, knowing that those jobs that they had are not going to be there to go back to,” he said.
Blumenthal said his proposals will include initiatives that will enhance the ability of community college and technical schools to train people for jobs in industries where there is a demand for workers. He said there are jobs available in the manufacturing industry in particular but most people lack the skills to fill the positions.
“In order to overcome our unemployment problem we need to match skills and jobs,” he said.
Blumenthal rejected the notion that congressional Republicans will block any proposal that includes an increase in spending. He said his understanding of the Republican standpoint is that if the federal government increases spending it must have a source of money to pay it.
“There are ways to use existing spending more effectively for job training that focuses on centers like this one,” he said.
The proposal will include a number of other initiatives designed to get unemployed folks back to work, he said. It will include a $4,000 tax credit for businesses that hire a long-term unemployed person, he said. Another measure prohibits employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants during the hiring process, he said.
Blumenthal said his initiative will also include investments in infrastructure that will create jobs.
Though the president’s bill was filibustered in the House, Blumenthal said he thinks it’s possible to pass the provisions he outlined.
“Now the effort has to be to take these employment initiatives one by one, step by step, piece by piece, and seek common ground on the ones where we can put the posturing and partisanship aside,” he said.
It remains to be seen whether Congress can put posturing aside but the political struggle in Washington seems like a distant concern for many on the job market.
As Blumenthal was wrapping up the press conference, Hartford resident Ronnie Breece was sitting in the waiting area of the career center hoping to get help finding work. Breece said he wasn’t sure what government could do better to get people back to work but said he hoped to get a job soon. He works part time at Rentschler Field, but said the work is limited to days when there are games. With two kids, it’s hard to make ends meet, he said.
Breece said he had experience in the cooking industry and had done security work but it’s been awhile since he’s been able to find a full-time job.
“I haven’t been really working in a good four or five years,” he said.
It’s not for lack of trying, he said. He’s been able to occasionally find some work under the table but Breece said he spends most of his time looking for permanent work. He said he would take a job in any industry. He goes out looking every day, fills out and submits applications, and then waits to hear back, he said. So far, it’s been quiet.
“It’s time consuming,” he said. “I try and try and try and it’s just like nothing gives.”