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Washington, D.C. -The American economy is in the midst of a “skills revolution” and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation today designed to give workers the means to adapt to the transformation.

Senators Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Max Baucus, D-Mont., Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., introduced the Higher Education Affordability, Access and Opportunity Act of 2004.

The bill would help universities, colleges and other institutions of higher education develop a stronger link to the workforce. Under the bill students could receive more relevant postsecondary education and training that would help them be more self-sufficient. Parents and students would also be able to access and understand data on individual schools, helping them make the choice that best fits their needs.

“America and the world's appetite for skilled workers is growing at a tremendous pace. We must supply our country's demand in order to ensure the American economy stays strong and has the skilled workers we need to stay ahead of our global competitors,” said Enzi. “Federal policy needs to keep up with the needs of the economy, not serve as an anchor slowing its progress. This legislation will help us stay ahead of the game.”

"This legislation is important to our nation's students and the future of our economy," Baucus said. "I'm committed to working together with members of Congress to provide our universities and businesses with the tools they need to better serve our students and the U.S. economy. We need to train our students and workers to fill the jobs of the future so that we can compete successfully in the global marketplace. We can do that by connecting our colleges with our businesses, and vice versa. That's what this bill will do."

“In North Carolina and many other states where the traditional manufacturing industries are no longer thriving, our community colleges offer a real beacon of hope, educating and training the local workforce to meet the challenges of new jobs and opportunities,” said Dole. “Supporting these institutions and students is critical to preparing American workers for the jobs of the 21st century.”

“Community colleges are our country’s secret weapon in workforce development,” Alexander said. “These competitive grants and additional subsidized loans will give local governments both the resources and autonomy necessary to work with their community colleges to develop programs that will train workers for jobs in their communities.

“I applaud Senator Enzi for introducing this bill to help our workforce adapt to the changing demands of our modern economy.”

"In order for America to maintain its economic edge, our workers must continue to be the most highly-skilled and best-trained in the world," Lieberman said. "Our bill encourages coordination between colleges and the business community to prepare a new generation of skilled workers to keep our nation competitive."