Connecting workers with available jobs

By U.S. Sen. Susan Collins

    Few issues are as important to people here in Maine as the availability of good jobs in our communities. Unemployment in our state, and across the country, remains too high. We must continue working together to identify ways to help people find jobs in fields where jobs exist.

    I have met with many business owners here in Maine who have jobs available, but they cannot find qualified and trained workers to fill these vacant positions. One way for employees to acquire the skills needed to thrive in in-demand fields is through apprenticeship programs.
    Apprentices get hands-on experience that is invaluable to employers and can help workers secure a good-paying job.
    According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, approximately 44,000 individuals graduated from apprenticeship programs in 2013 – nearly 1,000 of those individuals were from Maine. However, that number is likely insufficient to meet tomorrow’s needs. One manufacturer in Maine estimates that nearly 2.7 million manufacturing employees are expected to retire in the next decade. We must do all we can to ensure that an adequate pool of skilled workers is available to fill these good-paying jobs.
    Along with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), I have introduced legislation, the Appren-ticeship and Jobs Training Act, that would help achieve this goal by giving tax credits to businesses that hire apprentices. To ensure that workers are given adequate time to prove their value, the apprentice must be employed for seven months in order for a business to claim the credit. Our bill would also provide incentives for experienced workers who spend at least 20 percent of their time passing their hard-earned knowledge on to the next generation. These workers would be allowed to receive some retirement income early, without facing tax penalties. Also, training received while serving in the Armed Forces would count toward an apprentice’s training requirement.
    Putting people back to work remains my number one goal. I have a “Seven-Point Plan to Create Jobs and Help Small Businesses Grow,” which recognizes that small businesses are our job creators. Our efforts must be targeted toward helping small businesses start-up, grow, and prosper. The bill that I have recently introduced to help workers get training will better align the needs of our nation’s employers with potential employees.

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