Black senators push to aid minority youths

McClatchy NewspapersApril 9, 2014 

Cory Booker (D-MS) Tim Scott (R-SC)

— The only two African-American senators, a Democrat and a Republican, reached across the partisan divide Wednesday to introduce legislation targeting the high unemployment rate among minority youth.

Sens. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, and Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, unveiled a bill that would give businesses tax credits for hiring apprentices registered with the U.S. Labor Department or with a state government agency.

“One of the beauties of this legislation is it provides us an opportunity to find common ground,” Scott told reporters. “I don’t think either one of us have had to compromise in order to find this common ground.”

Scott and Booker, who both joined the Senate last year, said their measure is modeled after Apprenticeship Carolina.

Started by former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and expanded under current Gov. Nikki Haley, the program has helped to create 9,365 apprenticeships since its creation in 2007. Manufacturing and other firms in the state work with community colleges to train apprentices in robotics, information technology and a range of other skills.

The senators said their bill would help create 400,000 apprenticeships nationwide, filling a share of the 4 million jobs they said are vacant because employers can’t find workers with skills to fill them.

Scott, the only black Republican in Congress, and Booker said 16 percent of young people are unemployed, with the jobless rate still higher among minority youth. The overall unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7 percent from its Great Recession peak of 10 percent in October 2009.

Booker, a former mayor of Newark, N.J., said the United States is expected by 2020 to face a shortage of 3 million workers with associate degrees and 5 million with technical certificates.

“So this is actually a crisis that we have so many growing needs and not the workers to fill them,” he said.

Their bill, called the Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs Act, would give companies a tax credit of $1,500 for hiring an apprentice under the age of 25 and a credit of $1,000 for employing one 25 or older. The new program’s $450 million annual price tag would be offset by reducing federal printing costs by a similar amount.

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