WASHINGTON – Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) introduced the bipartisan Skills Gap Strategy Act on Wednesday to help employers identify, train, and hire workers with the skills to fill existing job openings across the country. There are an estimated 600,000 unfilled middle-skilled and high-skilled manufacturing jobs in the U.S. due to a shortage of skilled workers. The bill is cosponsored by Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

The legislation is one of 40 bills included in Manufacturing Jobs for America, a campaign by 22 senators to rally bipartisan support for legislation that would help manufacturers grow and create jobs.

“If we want to put Americans to work, we need to make sure they are equipped with the skills that today’s employers demand,” Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) said. “Too many positions remain unfilled because companies cannot find workers with the skills to do the job. We’ve got to invest, in partnership with the private sector, in a skilled 21st century workforce, and this bipartisan bill would do just that. I commend Senators Donnelly and Heller for their work on the Skills Gap Strategy Act, and look forward to working with them to advance this bill in the Senate.” Senator Coons leads the Manufacturing Jobs for America initiative.

 “In order for every Hoosier who wants a job to have a job and for Indiana’s economy to continue to grow, we must train Hoosiers for the jobs that are available,” Senator Donnelly said. “I’m proud to introduce this bill alongside Senator Heller that would examine how we can better use existing resources to prioritize training and education programs and prepare our workforce to hit the ground running on day one.”

The Skills Gap Strategy Act would direct the Secretary of Labor to develop a strategy to help close the “skills gap” by increasing on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities. It would encourage the Department of Labor to develop plans in consultation with the Departments of Commerce and Education to increase employer participation in education and workforce training.  Recognizing current budgetary constraints, the bill asks the Department of Labor to focus on solutions that utilize existing resources, programs, and personnel. Closing the skills gap must be an employer-driven effort, but the federal government can help.

Many middle-skilled and high-skilled jobs are being left unfilled because employers say they struggle to find workers with the skills needed.  The Department of Labor estimates that there are 3.9 million job openings in the U.S., despite a national unemployment rate of 7.2% and millions of Americans looking for work.

Other senators contributing policy to the Manufacturing Jobs for America campaign include Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).