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Donnelly stresses training

Members of Congress are reviving legislation to train workers for skilled manufacturing jobs that are going unfilled.

"There are job opportunities available, and we need to have the people who have the skills that can take these opportunities," Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Thursday during a conference call with reporters.

Donnelly is a co-sponsor of the America Works Act, which would direct federal training programs to emphasize math, science, engineering and technology skills.

"Those are areas that are going to be a real driving force in Indiana's economy in years to come," Donnelly said.

The freshman senator said he recently toured a Jasper transmissions manufacturer that could not find skilled workers to fill 25 job openings. Foundries and machine tooling companies in South Bend cannot find qualified applicants for available jobs, Donnelly said.

He cited a 2011 study by the Manufacturing Institute and consulting firm Deloitte that reported a shortage of capable candidates for 600,000 manufacturing jobs across the country.

The revenue-neutral America Works Act would establish nationwide, industry-recognized certification for certain skills. Separate bills have been filed in the Senate and the House and have bipartisan support.

The House approved the legislation in 2010, but it did not receive a vote in the Senate. Versions that were filed in both chambers in 2011, including one introduced by Donnelly, then a House member, did not receive committee hearings.

Donnelly said prospects have improved.

"This is not an election year, so that really helps people focus on just the merits of the bill as opposed to any political implications of it," he said.

Donnelly also is co-sponsoring a Senate bill, announced Thursday, that would repeal the 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices, which took effect in January. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., is among the bipartisan group of nine sponsors and co-sponsors of the legislation.

The tax "will jeopardize jobs, increase costs on consumers and impede innovation," Coats said in a prepared statement.

Backers include both senators from each of three states – Indiana, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Those states have large numbers of jobs in the medical device industry.

Tax-repeal legislation was introduced a day earlier in the House and attracted 175 co-sponsors, including Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd.

"It's really picking up steam," Donnelly said of the repeal effort.

The tax is expected to raise about $30 billion over 10 years to help fund the federal health care law. A repeal bill passed in the Republican House last year but was not considered by the Democratic Senate.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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