Job Training Not a Labor Dept. Priority

March 29, 2007 – At a time when top labor, business and economic leaders are calling for more investment in education and training to close a “skills gap” among American workers, the Bush administration’s Department of Labor is proposing to cut $1.1 billion from training programs in its fiscal 2008 budget.

The proposal baffled Congress members at recent hearings of both the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. House Chairman Tom Udall (D-NM) observed that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke each recently made “impassioned statements” that absent improved education and training, the U.S. risks its competitive position in the global economy.

Udall went on to ask why “our business and economic leaders understand the importance of education and training” while the Bush administration apparently does not. At the Senate hearing, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) told Labor Secretary Chao that U.S. competitiveness “depends on the investments we make in the workforce of the future” and that “success requires a genuine commitment of resources, not rhetoric.”

“Last May, leaders from the labor movement, the military and the corporate world gathered at the IAM for a SURGE Roundtable and we discussed the loss of skilled jobs,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “One issue on which we all agreed is the need – the urgent need – for highly-trained workers. The fact that this administration has consistently pushed to eliminate funding to train our workers, especially at this critical juncture in American history, is an absolute disgrace to those who built this great country.”