Reporter’s notebook

  • House bill aims to help older workers
  • Threading new skills
  • Partnership offers computer science degrees to Egyptian students

House bill aims to help older workers

House Democrats this week introduced legislation to help older workers upgrade their job skills and improve their employment prospects.

Reps. Marie Newman (Illinois), Suzanne Bonamici (Oregon), Don Beyer (Virginia) and Sylvia R. Garcia (Texas) on Monday introduced the Supporting Older Workers Act, which aims to strengthen the workforce development system for older workers and reduce barriers in the labor market by improving career counseling and training opportunities, creating a grant program to support older worker coordinators and establishing a new Older Workers Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

Due to the economic downturn surrounding the pandemic, last year saw more workers age 65 and older leave the workforce than in any year since 1948 when the U.S. began tracking this information, according to the lawmakers. Older workers who are unemployed typically take twice as long as younger individuals to find new employment, and often enter jobs with significantly lower wages than their previous job, they said.

According to the Democrats, the The Supporting Older Workers Act would:

  • Improve career counseling and training for older workers. The bill would allow localities to use federal funding to focus on older workers’ employment options and training needs and create specialized centers for older workers at local American Jobs Centers.
  • Create a grant program to support older worker coordinators. The legislation would create a grant program for state and local workforce boards to hire special coordinators, who will promote the employment and workforce development of older workers and coordinate with community colleges, labor organizations, Area Agencies on Aging, non-profits and more to cultivate supportive services for older workers.
  • Establish an Older Workers Bureau. Similar to the Women’s Bureau at the DOL, the new bureau would advance employment, economic success and well-being of older individuals through policy development, research and reporting, and technical assistance.

Threading new skills

Michigan’s Grand Rapids Community College is teaming up with Public Thread to create an industrial sewing certificate program to help students gain in-demand skills.

The pilot program, which starts on October 26, will train people to operate commercial sewing machines used in various west Michigan industries, including automotive and furniture manufacturers. Average starting wages are between $17 and $23 per hour with full-time benefits, according to the college.

Public Thread designs and creates products from surplus and scrap textiles obtained through partnerships with local manufacturers and suppliers, such as the furniture and billboard industries. Products include duffle bags, face coverings, clothing and even pet supplies. The company has created more than 70,000 face coverings in addition to laptop sleeves, tote bags and other products, which are sold online.

Partnership offers computer science degrees to Egyptian students

In New Jersey, Ocean County College and William Paterson University have signed an agreement with three Egyptian universities that will help Egyptian students major in computer science and earn degrees from both American institutions and one of the Egyptian universities. All courses are offered in hybrid and online formats.

Under the joint admissions agreement, the Egyptian students will enroll for the first two years of courses with Ocean County College (OCC), and after completion will receive an associate of science degree from OCC. In the third year, students will take courses recommended by William Paterson’s computer science faculty at one of the three Egyptian universities – Helwan University, Ain Shams University or Alexandria University – and will take online courses at William Paterson University in their fourth year.

At the completion of the program, the students will earn degrees from both William Paterson and one of the Egyptian universities. The initial cohort is expected to consist of 35 to 70 students.

The university and OCC expect that the collaboration will expand to include up to eight additional Egyptian universities, as well as additional academic programs.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.