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Our View: Bipartisan job training bill has potential

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:27 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 11, 2014 9:23 a.m. CDT

When dealing with the divided government in Washington, D.C., bipartisanship is crucial toward getting anything accomplished.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a 16th District Republican who represents most of DeKalb County, recognized that truth in his effort to improve career and technical education for young people and job seekers.

Kinzinger partnered with two Democrats, U.S. Reps. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts and Jared Polis of Colorado, and fellow Illinois Republican Rodney Davis to introduce the Perkins Modernization Act of 2014 on Tuesday.

The Perkins bill, if enacted, has the potential to boost the value of career and technical education for people who live in various regions of the country.

By using workforce data to ensure that vocational curriculums are aligned with the needs of local employers, it would increase the likelihood that students and job seekers would be hired in the fields for which they trained.

“This bipartisan bill will help ensure that skills being taught are actually in demand in the private sector,” Kinzinger said.

That strategy makes sense to us.

It should make sense to displaced workers who want to train for new careers.

It should make sense to young people who want to pursue career and technical education for entry positions in the local economy – the “stayers” who do not intend to earn a bachelor’s degree and move away from the Sauk Valley.

And it should make sense for students who intend to pursue college-level career and technical education programs, so they will have the best opportunities to find jobs upon graduation.

Rep. Kennedy said the proposal would “arm future generations with the skills they need to compete.” Rep. Polis said it would help young people “succeed in an increasingly global economy.” And Rep. Davis pointed to jobs that go unfilled in Illinois, with a jobless rate just below 9 percent, because “our workforce has not caught up with [21st-century] technical skills.”

With two Republicans and two Democrats sponsoring it, the Perkins Modernization Act of 2014 should draw bipartisan support across the Republican-controlled House. That bipartisanship must continue in the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House.

With luck, the skills-training bill will become law and help people fulfill their career and employment goals. A further consequence might just be a lower unemployment rate and an improved economy.

All because two Republicans and two Democrats decided to give bipartisanship a chance. 

As we said, it makes sense to us.

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