The Human Resources Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) held its third hearing this week in a series on “Jobs and Opportunity.” These hearings come at an important time as Congress prepares to consider legislation to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which is designed to help low-income families.
This series has been an opportunity for lawmakers to discuss with local leaders, the Administration, and employers possible legislative steps that can be taken to address and close the jobs gap – the difference between employers’ increasing demand for workers in a strong economy and the relatively low percent of individuals in the workforce.
The goal: to offer workers a path off the sidelines and into good-paying, meaningful careers so they too can feel the positive effects of our new, pro-growth tax code and a booming economy.
As Chairman Smith said at the start of the hearing:
“Millions of Americans are on the sidelines of our economy, and it is vital we understand how taxpayer resources, particularly those under this committee’s jurisdiction, are being leveraged, or not, to address the needs of those struggling to get ahead. With the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program set to expire in September, this Committee must not stand down from its responsibility to reauthorize this program and provide certainty to families, states, and taxpayers.”
In their testimony, the witnesses across the panel expressed the same sentiment: there are good and meaningful jobs that need to be filled in order to keep our economy moving in the right direction.
Glenn Johnson, Manufacturing Workforce Development Leader at BASF Corporation, said it best:
“We can no longer hit the snooze button on the jobs gap. We must change our messaging to entice workers to seek jobs that are readily available.”
Witnesses also shared specific programs their companies are pursuing to attract workers.
David Ard, Senior Vice President and Global Head of People and Communications for Gap, Inc. told the Subcommittee about Gap’s “This Way Ahead” initiative that is helping young folks get their first job, paving the way for meaningful work in adulthood:
“’This Way Ahead’ [is] a Gap Inc. program that gives young people – especially those facing barriers to employment – an opportunity for a first job in Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic stores. … A first job is an important milestone in every person’s life. For many young people, especially those with limited opportunities, it can be life-changing and shape an individual’s prospects for the future.”
Chairman Smith went on to ask Mr. Ard:
“Can you perhaps talk on why you believe it’s important to expand beyond the major markets of say New York City, Chicago, and L.A. into places like Omaha?”
Mr. Ard described how rural areas have the potential to not only attract employees, but often have greater potential to retain employees into long-term, full-time employment. He went on to add:
“We look for our store managers to hire for potential and not credential. So, they’re probing on openness, they’re probing on feedback, work ethic. And we see that the interview approach is a key differentiator. It’s a core ingredient to our ability to be successful as we go into a new market. Support for youth post-hire is critically important. It’s one thing to get the job; it’s another thing to keep the job.”
Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) asked Barb Pilarski, Head of Human Resources at FCA US LLC about what manufacturers are doing to help close the jobs gap in management-level positions:
“You mentioned in your testimony…that you are thinking about taking away the requirement for college education for your supervisors. We have many students in this country, many young people who have significant debt in that 18- to 24-year-old gap that are most likely not to have a job. We’re facing a fundamental crisis here. Tell us a little bit about your decision to take away that degree requirement for your supervisors.”
Ms. Pilarski responded:
“We have too many positions that are open, and what we’re finding is that when we bring a person into the assembly line who doesn’t need a college degree, we bring them in as a team member. For those who have the interest, they can’t aspire to be team leaders…we’re finding that these folks are a really good pipeline into these production supervisor positions but they don’t have the college degree. We just connected the dots on that and said we need to rethink what our minimum requirements are, because we really have the capabilities in these employees and we need to leverage that.”
Steve Staub, President and Owner of Staub Manufacturing Solutions, emphasized that there are ways for young people to achieve success outside of a traditional college education:
“There’s opportunity for the federal government to reach out to the education system and help them spread the message that you don’t need a four-year degree. … We have an opportunity to share that message.”
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) agreed, saying:
“American taxpayers contribute billions of dollars every year to support those who are at need. I think most Americans really do it proudly because we all want to help people who are struggling, who need a hand up. But I think it’s pretty clear from the testimony today and from all the different questions and answers we’ve heard that we can do a lot better as a federal government.”
Chairman Smith closed the hearing by saying:
“It’s vital that we have these conversations and it’s a great reminder of what’s at stake, and how we want to focus on opportunity for the future…and helping folks leave the sidelines and get in the action. I think it’s just a win-win down the line, positive scenario when we can help folks connect with opportunity for themselves personally, for their communities, for their families, you name it.”
CLICK HERE to learn more about how the Committee’s efforts to close the jobs gap.