Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today voiced his strong support for the bipartisan "America COMPETES Act," S. 761, saying "more must be done to ensure that every American has the opportunity to achieve academically and obtain the skills needed to succeed in the global economy."
"Fifty years after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, we again find ourselves facing an urgent need to boost America’s competitiveness and enhance our education programs – particularly in the areas of math, science, and foreign languages," Enzi said. "The America COMPETES Act is a good starting point, but we need to do more."
The Senate is expected to action on the America COMPETES Act this week. Enzi said that as Ranking Member of the HELP Committee, he is fully committed to working with Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Chairman of the HELP Committee, to renew the Higher Education Act (HEA), the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in order to ensure that every American has "a lifetime of learning opportunities."
"The call for education and skills training is loud and clear," Enzi said. "Promoting ingenuity, knowledge, and skills is vital to filling the high skills, high-paying jobs of the 21st century."
He also warned that a substantial portion of our workforce now finds itself in direct competition for jobs with highly motivated, and often well-educated, people from around the world. "Unless we pay attention to these facts, this competition will only increase in the future."
The "America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act" includes provisions that improve math, science and critical foreign language education in our Nation from elementary school through graduate school. It supports improvements to teacher preparation, establishes stronger links between graduate schools and employers, provides funding to support students trained at the doctoral level in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, while enhancing federal programs that support students in graduate school.
Enzi highlighted a number of key indicators that illustrate the need to pass American COMPETES, including:
· Business is spending billions each year to train new employees and remediate the educational skill gaps of those already in the workforce;
· The American workforce is aging - 77 million baby boomers are set to retire over the next several decades;
· Reading proficiency among 12th graders has declined to the point where just over one-third of them are even considered proficient readers. In addition, 47 percent of those with a college degree are not considered proficient readers according to the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy;
· The United States has one of the highest college enrollment rates, but a college completion rate average to below average among developed countries in the world;
· Four out of every five jobs will require postsecondary education or the equivalent, yet only 52 percent of Americans over the age of 25 have achieved this level of education.
"The decisions we make about education and workforce development will have a dramatic impact on the economy and our society for generations to come," Enzi said. "We need to build, strengthen and maintain our educational pipeline, beginning in elementary school. We must also strengthen programs that encourage and enable citizens of all ages to enroll in postsecondary education and obtain or improve their knowledge and skills. The America COMPETES Act is a good starting point."