At Appropriations Hearing, Hyde-Smith Focuses on Job Training to Improve Workforce Participation Rates

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VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Promotes Community Colleges as Key to Meeting Job Training Needs.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today kept her focus on training programs and the availability of grants that would allow more community colleges in rural states help fill available jobs.

Hyde-Smith used a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Thursday to question Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su about ensuring community colleges in rural states have access to the U.S. Department of Labor Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant program.

“There is a widening gap between the jobs available to Mississippians and the career routes being chosen.  Despite there being many positions offering significantly above-average wages, there is a huge shortage of plumbers, electricians, diesel mechanics, utility linemen, HVAC technicians, precision manufacturers, and dozens of other skilled jobs,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Without more folks pursuing these jobs, our workforce participation rate will continue to decline, average income increases will stall, and our economic health will suffer as we struggle to reach our economic potential.”

Hyde-Smith praised the contributions of Mississippi’s community college system to train workers for existing and emerging industries in the state, and sought assurances that those schools in rural states have access to Strengthening Community Colleges Training resources.

“Many community colleges in Mississippi continue to work with companies to fill the training gaps in manufacturing and technical jobs so we can continue to produce a ready, well-trained workforce.  Will you commit to making sure these grants continue to go to deserving community colleges in rural states so they can continue to fill the workforce gap across all sectors?” Hyde-Smith asked Su.

Su agreed that community college training programs are key players in job training efforts and noted a modest increase in the administration’s FY2025 budget request for Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant program, which is coordinated with the U.S. Department of Education.

In April, East Mississippi Community College became the first Mississippi school to be awarded a Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant.  It received a $1.56 million grant though this program, which will allow it to increase its work through The Communiversity to train skilled workers in industrial and engineering technology sectors.

During the hearing to review the overall FY2025 budget request for the Labor Department, Hyde-Smith and Su both agreed that greater effort should be made to promote manufacturing and technical jobs.

“From my conversations with training providers, state officials, community organizations, and employers, this shortage is not the result of a lack of opportunity or training resources.  Rather, it is largely an issue of awareness and perception.  Many people exploring their career options are not aware of the high wages, good benefits, and long-term stability these occupations provide.  And if they are aware, there is a misguided view these occupations are less desirable,” Hyde-Smith said.