|17th District Congressional Representative Cheri Bustos stopped in Galesburg at Carl Sandburg College Friday after her first 22 days in office.
The East Moline Democrat has been touring community colleges around the district, six in total, the last few weeks in the hopes of better understanding job preparedness in the manufacturing sector.
Bustos briefly toured the Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the College with a small cohort of administrators - Mayor Sal Garza snuck into the group near the end.
In an impromptu press conference after the tour, Bustos tells WGIL the district already has major manufacturing anchor points in place for the community colleges to feed.
"Let's make sure that we brand this altogther, and there's a desire among business leaders to be able do that, where you've got high unemployment and you've got community colleges that can help train people, and you've got these manufacturing anchors in place I think what we have is the formula to get the economy rolling again and manufacturing jobs are a major part of that," says Bustos.
Her comments play into what economists commonly refer to as "structural unemployment."
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, job openings in manufacturing have rebounded to just below 280-thousand month-over-month.
Bustos is coming off her appointments to the House Committee on Agriculture as well as the Highways and Transit Subcommittees on the Hill.
She tells WGIL community colleges can greatly assist in training workers to fill available jobs.
"It's making sure programs like Pell Grants for students, who otherwise couldn't afford to go to community colleges, that those don't face cuts," says Bustos.
Bustos attempted to use one of the computer programs available to students to weld a "T-Joint" during her tour.
One of the instructors at the college said they have a waiting list of 12 people to get into the manufacturing program at Carl Sandburg College.
The nationwide workforce participation rate for workers with an associates degree most recently sits at 68.7 percent.
Bustos went on to say she has reached out to every new member of Congress in her time spent at the Capitol.
(Rep. Cheri Bustos tours Carl Sandburg College's Center for Manufacturing Excellence Friday. WGIL News Story and Photo by Tyler Maffitt.)