Congress must support businesses, says senator

By Kimberly Houghton

BEDFORD — Businesses throughout the state are desperate for more skilled workers, and Congress must give businesses the support they need to address this growing problem, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said Monday.

Speaking to the New England Council, Hassan, D.-NH, highlighted her efforts to expand opportunity and help make innovative businesses more successful. 

“Businesses in New Hampshire are focused on forward thinking approaches to help their businesses thrive, and I really think it is time for Congress to give businesses the support they need,” Hassan said.

Last month, Hassan introduced the Gateway to Careers Act, which is designed to build a stronger workforce through career pathway programs that combine work, education and support services. 

These services, Hassan said, will help individuals earn industry-recognized credentials that will enable them to move forward with their careers, and in turn help their families be successful. 

The Gateway to Careers Act would provide grants to build on partnerships similar to the welding apprenticeship program that currently exist between Granite State Manufacturing and the Manchester Community College, she said. 

“These partnerships would help individuals who are unemployed or underemployed get the job training that they need to enter the workforce or move into higher paying jobs,” Hassan said. 

She stressed the importance of expanding economic opportunity and building bright futures for the citizens of New Hampshire, explaining that when people have the chance to work hard and advance their careers, they also can raise strong families and the state can thrive together.

By strengthening job training and removing barriers that prevent people from completing a degree or credential program, partnerships between community or technical colleges and workforce development partners such as state workforce development boards, industry associations and community based organizations can be key, Hassan said.

The senator said public and nonprofit sectors are experiencing workforce shortages. Flexible college systems and new high school and post-secondary schooling options are needed to reignite opportunity for innovators, coupled with student loan debt relief, she added. 

“We know that the pathway to a strong career involves a lot of different ways now,” said Hassan, adding an expanded workforce pipeline will help strengthen the economy and prepare students for the careers of their choice. 

The Gateways to Career Act has been endorsed by the National Skills Coalition, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Association for Career and Technical Education, Advance CTE, and the National Council for Workforce Education.

Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., are cosponsors of the bill.