Klobuchar highlights her bipartisan legislation to strengthen workforce development by increasing apprenticeship opportunities


WASHINGTON - At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing titled “Developing Next Generation Technology for Innovation,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) highlighted the need to invest in domestic semiconductor production and boost workforce development.

Pointing to the Skywater Technology Foundry in Bloomington, Minnesota and Micron Technology’s engineering facility in Minneapolis, Klobuchar emphasized the importance of investing in domestic semiconductor production to strengthen the resilience of America’s semiconductor supply chains and bolster American innovation.  

Klobuchar underscored the need to increase apprenticeship opportunities and lift visa caps to boost workforce development and fill current shortages. She specifically pointed to her Apprenticeships to College Act, which was recently passed by the House of Representatives as part of the America Competes Act. This bipartisan legislation, which Klobuchar introduced with Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), would allow workers to earn college credits for completed apprenticeships, creating a pathway for skill development. Klobuchar recently joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the Biden administration to increase the amount of available H-2B visas for seasonal workers to temporarily fill workforce shortages. 

Klobuchar also highlighted her bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Commerce Committee this week, and now heads to the Senate floor. Co-sponsored by Senator John Thune (R-SD), this bipartisan legislation will level the playing field for American exporters by making it harder for ocean carriers to unreasonably refuse goods ready to export at ports.

The full transcript of Klobuchar’s questioning is given below, and is available for TV download HERE and for online viewing HERE

Senator Klobuchar: Very good. Thank you very much Chair Cantwell and thank you very much for holding this hearing. Thank you to all of you, it’s a nice break from Judiciary, honestly. There's just a little thing going on in the other hearing room. 

I wanted to start with you Mr. Gelsinger and Mr. Archer on the subject of workforce shortage. I’m obsessed with this. My state has a really low unemployment rate, which is a great problem to have. And we have 18 Fortune 500 companies, somewhere in that range. And I believe the answers are broad. The answers are, of course, immigration reform, lifting visa caps, workforce permits, but also apprenticeships and one and two year degrees. And Senator Moran and I have a bill which was included, actually, in the America Competes Act over in the House which would allow workers to earn college credit for completed apprenticeships, creating a pathway for workers to gain skills. Can you talk to the role of public, private sectors working together on this angle of workforce shortages?

Mr. Gelsinger: Yeah. We’re extremely proud to be partnering. And, in fact, just last week we announced a 100 million dollar partnership with NSF for job creation, primarily in the Midwest around our Ohio site announcement. This builds on a long history of public-private partnership in job creation. You know, we’re making strong advancements in areas like underrepresented minorities and females in technology, strong investments in STEM. I personally am a product of the community college system, a farm boy from Pennsylvania who’s now leading one of the most iconic companies in American history. I deeply believe in these principles. We’ve also seen that we’ve launched our AI for the Future Program, specifically aimed at community colleges. Many of our workforce are hired, with no or minimal technology education and we provide that in partnership with many of the local community colleges as well. This is core to our future.

Senator Klobuchar: Okay, thank you. My dad went to community college as did my sister, so thank you. Mr. Archer, quickly, because I have another question. Thank you. 

Mr. Archer: Well, I think as Mr. Gelsinger said, it’s important to the industry. We think about the chip shortage and many of the bottlenecks to recovering from this. One of them is the tight labor market we face today. Not only in companies like Lam Research, but also the hundreds of American suppliers that we depend on. And those suppliers are spread across 37 different states and they are feeling the pain of not enough workers to fill these high-skilled jobs. So, we’re very supportive of any type of government program that helps to bolster - - 

Senator Klobuchar: And immigration reform.

Mr. Archer: And immigration reform. Of course that is important for us in California as well.

Senator Klobuchar: Exactly. Alright, Mr. Mehrotra I know Micron employs 110 people in Minnesota who design chips, thank you for that. Not who’s counting, but I am. I also visited Skywater in Bloomington, Minnesota, in fact the President at one point held up one of our Minnesota chips, which produces 65 and 90 nanometer chips. Can you talk about the importance of investing in U.S. based companies in the production of semiconductors and innovation?

Mr. Mehrotra:  I just want to say, again, that we are very proud of our team in Minnesota. They are absolutely leading-edge engineers working on some of the most advanced work that Micron is doing. Micron today is leading the world in semiconductor memory and storage technologies. And it’s really imperative as part of Micron’s announcement of investing more than 150 billion dollars over a decade in leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing and R and D that we have the fortune to bring manufacturing, leading-edge manufacturing on shore. Of course we are here in Manassas, Virginia,  manufacturing with nearly 2000 team members and investing in advanced memory manufacturing and storage and supplying the markets such as automotive market and defense and industrial. But we need to bring more manufacturing into the U.S. and Micron is  committed to doing it with support from the CHIPS Act and investment tax credits. As the only company in the U.S. making semiconductor memory and storage, we fully recognize our responsibility and we seek the support from the government policies to enable us to be able to be part of building resilient semiconductor leadership here in the U.S.

Senator Klobuchar: Thank you. And I will just put on the record a question about Senator Thune’s and my Ocean Shipping Reform Act. I think it’s really important that if we’re going to make stuff and invent things and export to the rest of the world that you’re able to ship to the rest of the world, which means not having empty containers and having reasonable rates. So, we’re excited under Senator Cantwell and Senator Wicker’s leadership that the bill was marked up and unanimously got through this committee just a few days ago and is headed to the Senate floor. So thank you very much, all of you.