Expanding opportunities in N.H.

Granite Staters have worked for decades to create a vibrant and diverse economy that has attracted and helped grow innovative companies in fields including microelectronics, health care, advanced manufacturing and others. A tribute to this strong economy is one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Of course, a low unemployment rate brings its own challenges, including employers who are unable to fill positions in high-demand fields that often require unique and rapidly changing skill sets. At the same time, students and workers may not have the best skills to match the types of jobs that are in demand where they live.

We must expand economic opportunity so that everyone who calls the Granite State home can make their way into a successful career, get ahead, and give their families the future they want and deserve.

In May, I announced my Jobs and Opportunity Agenda to tackle these issues. The agenda outlines a comprehensive approach to expanding economic opportunity by bolstering apprenticeship and vocational training programs, addressing the out of control costs of higher education, investing in infrastructure and broadband expansion, increasing affordable housing, and supporting working families with paid family leave and childcare programs. Taking these steps will enhance our workforce and make New Hampshire an even better place to live.

This agenda was the result of numerous meetings I’ve had with workers, students, employers, and educators across New Hampshire. I’ve been so impressed by the work being done at Nashua Community College’s Microelectronics Boot Camp, where students learn skills including wire bonding and connect with local employers such as BAE Systems. Cheyenne Rivera and Lila Amuzzini are two people who’ve seen the success of this program firsthand.

Prior to the Boot Camp, Cheyenne worked odd jobs and was unsatisfied with her career opportunities. She worked hard and made sacrifices to complete the program, but she persevered and was hired as a Mechanical Associate Assembler at Mercury Systems, Inc. “This is the kind of chance that everyone deserves and the investment in these types of training programs is more than worth it,” Cheyenne said.

The Boot Camp opened doors for Lila as well. “Before I participated, I had only worked in retail,” she said. “The class opened up opportunities with several companies. After interviewing with BAE Systems, I was offered a job that I accepted. I’ve been working there for just under a year and it is the best thing that’s happened to me. Before all of this, I couldn’t support myself on my own. I didn’t have any real goals or aspirations. The Boot Camp equipped me with the skills and confidence to step into the most incredible job opportunity.”

Stories like these make me excited about implementing my agenda in the Granite State, and hopefully expanding it throughout the country. Cheyenne and Lila’s experiences are the embodiment of the American Dream: no matter where you come from, you can achieve success and get ahead if you work hard. The success of Cheyenne and Lila is not just a win for them; it benefits their families, our state, and our nation’s economy. When we invest in them, we invest in all of us.

To help promote innovative partnerships like the Microelectronics Boot Camp, I introduced the Workforce Development Investment Act, which will use the tax code to incentivize partnerships between employers and educational institutions, making it easier for employers to create partnerships and train new workers.

It’s critical that Congress work in a bipartisan manner to expand programs and initiatives like the Microelectronics Boot Camp that can help students and workers chart a new course for their future. We need to continue funding the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which gives states increased autonomy to coordinate workforce development resources, while making college more affordable and helping students become more engaged in STEM at an early age.

I’m focused on working across the aisle to help build an economy that works for every Granite Stater and people across the country. Just this past week, an item on my Jobs & Opportunity agenda, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, was signed into law. This is an area where we can and will come together, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, to get the job done for the American people.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.