America’s workers have always been one of our greatest strengths. However, the last few years have presented new challenges to the growth and long-term strength of our labor force. From pandemic lockdowns and the ensuing business closures, our workers have shown true resiliency through these difficult times.

If you visit almost any small business in America today, you are likely to see a “Help Wanted” sign. In fact, a recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Business found that about half of small-business owners can’t fill open jobs, almost a record high in the survey’s fifty-year history. The American labor force participation rate still lags behind pre-pandemic levels.

While labor force participation struggles to recover, our Agriculture workforce is rapidly aging, and not enough young people are stepping in to take their place. This should be alarming for all of us; a country that cannot feed itself cannot survive. To help remedy this situation, we introduced the bipartisan, bicameral ASPIRE Act. The ASPIRE Act will establish a work-based agriculture training program within the USDA’s existing Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to fund participation in apprenticeship and internship programs with local agribusinesses.

Investing in our agriculture, manufacturing, and building trade workforce means looking beyond a traditional four-year degree and focusing on apprenticeships and on-the-job training. We introduced the bipartisan Investing in American Workers Act which will encourage employers to provide on-the-job educational and technical training to their employees. This important legislation will strengthen America’s workforce and help to bridge the skills gap that many employers face.

The American workforce is the strongest and most resilient in the world. However, for our nation to remain competitive, we must invest in the next generation of workers to ensure they have the training and skills necessary to push America forward.