Campaign News
July 29, 2013

Reducing unemployment is No. 1 on my priority list (Opinion from U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell)

Terri Sewell   ·   ·  Link to Article

Since being elected to Congress in 2010, I have placed getting Americans back to work at the top of my priority list. While our national economy is slowly recovering, we still have far to go. This is why my office has implemented a results-driven approach to addressing the unemployment crisis in our country.

Many areas across the nation have suffered from long-term, systemic unemployment for far too long. The 7th Congressional District of Alabama is no exception. Wilcox County, for example, currently has an unemployment rate of 15.8 percent; more than double that of the national rate. Just last month, Perry County suffered from an unemployment rate of 14%, while the average unemployment rate across the 7th Congressional District was 10.2 percent. We need common sense, bipartisan solutions to address the challenges posed by systemic unemployment in our communities.

Our proactive jobs initiative began last fall when my office hosted our first Job Fair in Birmingham. By mid-afternoon, over 4,000 Alabamians had attended the event. This participation further highlighted the will and need of unemployed Alabamians to find meaningful work. As we met with Alabamians seeking employment and employers seeking qualified employees, we realized yet again the urgency of expanding upon our jobs initiative to get to the root of the unemployment crisis.

We are honored to be partnering with Wallace Community College to continue the momentum from last year's Job Fair by hosting our 2nd Annual Congressional Job Fair, which will be held on the Wallace campus in Selma on Wednesday, August 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition, my office has and will continue to host pre-job fair readiness workshops as a part of our workforce training initiative, Realizing Everyone's Ability to Develop Yourself, also known as Project R.E.A.D.Y.

While in Congress, I have had the opportunity to meet with many manufacturers and business owners across the 7th Congressional District. They tell me that positions remain unfilled and they are unable to expand because they cannot find employees with the skills needed to help their businesses remain competitive. These employers predict that these shortages will only grow worse if we do not better equip our young and unemployed people with the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.

This shortage of skilled talent and its relationship to unemployment is the most urgent labor market issue today. Alabama's strong and vibrant workforce has attracted auto manufacturers and companies from across the world including Mercedes-Benz., Hyundai, and Honda making the state a leader in U.S. automotive manufacturing. We have come too far to not capitalize and expand upon our relationships with these companies.

This past week, President Obama laid out his ideas for how we build on the cornerstones of middle-class prosperity in America. He spoke to our need to rebuild our manufacturing base and educate our workforce naming job security as a cornerstone of a thriving middle-class. If we fail to make these investments, we will put our country at a disadvantage for generations to come.

These are the reasons I introduced The Workforce Development Tax Credit Act of 2013, H.R. 1324, as a legislative effort to address the lack of skilled talent in the labor market today. This proposed legislation provides a federal tax credit to businesses to partner with educational institutions to develop part-time apprenticeship training programs and train workers to have the cutting edge manufacturing skills that are desperately needed.

I believe proactive initiatives and common sense policy approaches are equally important in solving the unemployment crisis.  By encouraging companies to make things in America, we will put people back to work, revitalize our manufacturing sector, and in doing so, become more globally competitive.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama's 7th Congressional District.

Follow Terri