Vocational Training Makes for Better Paid, Better Prepared Workers

America needs a 21st century workforce to better compete in the global economy. And the Teamsters are doing their part to make sure workers have the training they require so they can join the workforce of the future.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded the union a five-year, $4.6 million grant to establish apprenticeship programs in the trucking industry. The Teamsters are partnering with ABC Moving Services, ABF Freight, DiSilva Transportation and National Retail Systems to improve truck driver training.

In addition to the apprenticeship programs, grant dollars will be used to develop qualified instructors as well as train recent high school graduates, Teamsters moving from non-driving jobs to ones that require commercial driver's licenses and military personnel transitioning to civilian life. The Teamsters will locate candidates by recruiting at high schools and vocational schools, community-based organizations, Teamster locals and select military bases.

Now I don't mention this just to toot our own horn. Instead, it is to stress to both the public and private sectors the importance of such opportunities if we are going to create more good-paying jobs for Americans. Education is essential for preparing people for the working world.

A college degree, however, is not the answer for all people. There is a need to boost vocational training for the U.S. population at large. A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that by 2018, a third of all jobs in this country will require post-secondary training but not a four-year degree. Yet as it stands, less than 20 percent of the workforce has vocational certification.

In short, we have a skilled worker shortage. It should be the goal of lawmakers across the political spectrum to encourage youth not pursuing post-secondary academic studies to obtain training in a skill area that will provide them with the opportunity to earn a living wage and a career track that will ultimately give them a path to the middle class.

Better worker training means better services and safety for all Americans. Labor unions like the Teamsters make it happen every day. Imagine that you are driving down an icy road late at night. You see an 18-wheeler semi driving towards you. Ask yourself this question: Do you want the driver of that truck to be a part-time contractor, or a Teamster who has received top-level training, along with sufficient rest the night before?

The choice is clear: a Teamster on the road makes the road a safer place for you to drive. Worker training, particularly through labor unions like the Teamsters, is good for workers and good for America.

But there needs to be a buy-in, not just from unions, but from all players. Government and corporations have a role to play. Democrats and Republicans have a role to play. The U.S. needs to increase the amount of workers who are compensated for their skills and hard work with salaries and benefits that give them dignity and allow them to live a middle-class lifestyle.

That's why the Teamsters unveiled our "Let's Get America Working" platform earlier this month. This nation must put current and future workers in a position to succeed in the workforce by giving them the skills they need. Doing so will help both the nation and families from coast to coast.

But for it to happen, people need to let their elected officials and even their employers know this is a priority, one that can help both workers and businesses. That's how we truly make America stronger!