During a Senate Agriculture Subcommittee hearing on Thursday, Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly questioned U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien on what the USDA is doing to help train the next generation of workers and invest in infrastructure in our rural communities. O’Brien agreed with Donnelly that workforce development in rural areas is of the utmost importance.
Donnelly said: “One of the things I worry about is losing our young people in a lot of our rural communities, and it’s jobs, it’s quality of life, it is the chance to have them trained with appropriate skills, to have the infrastructure in the town or community to encourage good jobs to come. But losing the young people it almost creates a spiral that starts, and so after skills and after infrastructure, what are the other things that you look at and say, ‘here are the kind of elements that are critical to keeping people at home and having them build their future right here’?”
O’Brien stated that workforce development investments in rural areas often give the greatest return while also acknowledging the need to invest in infrastructure, including greater high-speed internet capabilities, in rural areas. O’Brien commented that some of the best ways the USDA can help in these efforts is through business grant programs, as well as by working closely with community colleges to train young people.
During his time on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Donnelly has focused on advancing his “Opportunity Agenda”—an agenda centered around going all-in on American energy, helping workers hit the ground running by improving workforce development and training, investing in Indiana’s infrastructure, and keeping our state competitive through exports and innovations.
Donnelly also continues to work to pass two of his bills designed to close the skills gap—the AMERICA Works Act, S. 453, and the Skills Gap Strategy Act, S. 1619 (introduced today in the House), both bipartisan bills aimed at better directing existing federal worker training resources toward the skills that employers need now. Further, the Skills Gap Strategy Act would direct the Department of Labor to work with the private sector to increase the amount of on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities. Learn more about Donnelly’s work to close the skills gap here and here.
For information on how Senator Donnelly’s office can assist cities, municipalities and other organizations applying for federal grants such as those offered by the USDA, please visit https://www.donnelly.senate.gov/help/grants.