Senators Collins, Hassan Host Virtual Discussion on Improving Career Pathway Opportunities

Senators Collins, Hassan previously introduced bipartisan Success for Rural Students and Communities Act and Gateway to Careers Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), both members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, held a virtual roundtable discussion today about workforce development opportunities and their bipartisan Success for Rural Students and Communities Act and Gateway to Careers Act.  The Senators were joined by employers and higher education institutions across Maine and New Hampshire, including the Maine Community College System, Pratt & Whitney, Littleton Regional Healthcare, and White Mountains Community College.


“It was a pleasure to join Senator Hassan in convening today’s discussion about how we can forge better community partnerships between employers, educational institutions, and current and future employees,” said Senator Collins.  “In addition to competing in a global economy, our nation faces the challenge of emerging from a historic pandemic.  The partnership between Pratt & Whitney and York County Community College is a shining example of how we can meet the needs of employers and give Americans the skills that they need to secure good-paying jobs.  I appreciated hearing the perspectives of all of our panelists, and I look forward to working with Senator Hassan to pass legislation like the Success for Rural Students and Communities Act and the Gateway to Careers Act that will support the important work they are doing on the front lines.”


“As we’re emerging from the pandemic, we have a real opportunity right now to connect people with programs where they can both learn and earn at the same time, while receiving the needed training for really good-paying jobs,” said Senator Hassan. “The Gateway to Careers Act would build partnerships between community colleges and workforce organizations and businesses. It would also make sure that we are addressing long-standing problems faced by workers, including many barriers that prevent people from participating in our workforce… I really appreciate Senator Collins’s collaboration on this bipartisan bill. I look forward to working with our colleagues to get it passed.”


David Daigler, President of the Maine Community College System, and Elvin Dumas, Associate Director of Materials Planning at Pratt & Whitney, discussed ways to bring low-skilled workers into high-wage opportunities through educational collaborations. Specifically, these training programs must have strong recruitment, training, and retention techniques, which the Gateways to Careers Act could support. Pratt & Whitney and York County Community College developed a successful four-year machinist apprenticeship program that has helped forge promising new career paths.


Courtney Daniels, a Physician Practices Operations Manager at Littleton Regional Healthcare, emphasized that the skill set gap in rural communities for health care jobs is challenging, and it has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Daniels and Dr. Chuck Lloyd, President of White Mountains Community College, shared how Littleton Regional Healthcare’s partnership with White Mountains Community College to form an apprenticeship program has helped to address some of these workforce shortages.


“I want to express my appreciation to both Senator Collins and Senator Hassan for taking a regional approach for working together,” said Daigler. “The work that you’re doing to look at northern New England, to look at our two states and how we can support one another, is very important. And it does work across the political boundaries, but it also works across state boundaries, and it’s a partnership much like the partnership that we’re talking about here.”


The Success for Rural Students and Communities Act would assist rural students in reaching their higher education goals and connect them with employment opportunities in their hometowns.  Specifically, the bill would create a demonstration program to encourage rural community stakeholders to partner together to help their students matriculate, graduate, and enter the workforce. These partnerships would draw on the talents of local school districts, institutions of higher education, regional economic development entities, and rural community-serving organizations.


The bipartisan Gateway to Careers Act would help give innovative businesses the skilled workers that they need to thrive by strengthening job training and removing barriers that prevent individuals from participating in the workforce. It would provide grants to support partnerships between community or technical colleges and workforce development partners such as state workforce development boards, industry associations, and community-based organizations. These partnerships would support individuals who are unemployed or underemployed by strengthening job training and removing barriers that prevent them from completing a degree or credential program and succeeding in the workforce by providing support for things such as housing, mental and substance use disorder treatment, health insurance coverage, career counseling, child care, transportation, and guidance in accessing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).


Senators Collins and Hassan also recently reintroduced the bipartisan Opioid Workforce Act, which would support hospitals in hiring and training doctors in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and pain management. The bipartisan legislation would create 1,000 new medical residency positions focused on addiction medicine at teaching hospitals in New Hampshire, Maine, and across the country.