By Gary Huffenberger
Wilmington News Journal
WILMINGTON — A “skills gap” exists in the labor market, believes U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio 15th District), and he thinks the federal government can do some things to help employers link up with qualified workers.
Basically, a skill gap is the difference in the skills required on a job and the actual skills currently possessed by an employee or job applicant.
Stivers was in Clinton County Monday during an August recess of the U.S. House of Representatives, and he included a stop at the News Journal on his trip.
He said people seeking work often don’t have the skills for the jobs that are available.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to streamline or simplify the federal government’s workforce development programs, he said. The goal of the bill is so employers can more readily gain access to training money and resources.
There are 17 major categories of workforce development programs in the federal government, according to the congressman. Break that down, he said, and he thinks there are 68 programs that try to help, “but they’re so targeted, and too difficult for a lot of employers to access.”
To illustrate, Stivers said employers in Clinton County can potentially partner with Southern State Community College, with Wilmington College, with Cincinnati Technical College, with other educational institutions or they can do it themselves.
“Because if they [an employer] can find someone who’s willing to come to work but doesn’t have the skills, and they’re willing to train them, I want to help those employers get those people into work,” said Stivers.
He believes this would help all kinds of companies around Clinton County and Wilmington, and is hoping the U.S. Senate will follow the House in passing the bill related to workforce development.
At a more general level, Stivers said he is excited about the current economic success. When he started as a congressman representing Clinton County, the jobless rate here was about 9 percent, he said, and now it is 6.2 percent.
The current unemployment rate is still higher than he would like it to be, he said, but the fact it’s come down is a big deal.
“You’re [also] starting to see pay increases and wage increases coming, which I think is important. And all that’s because of the tax and regulatory changes that we put in place to help grow the economy and help bring about more economic opportunity for every American,” said Stivers.
He provided an update on his 2018 work related to the substance abuse crisis.
This summer, bipartisan legislation introduced by Stivers and Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) was included in final passage of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act.
The Stivers and Engel part of the legislation is meant to encourage an increased use of treatments that have been proven to work, in other words, evidence-based treatments.
In addition, his Homeless Children and Youth Act passed out of the Financial Services Committee in July. It would align the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) definition of homelessness with criteria already used by several other agencies, such as the Head Start program.
As a result, these homeless children would have better access to homeless assistance and hopefully be less likely to abuse drugs in the future.