by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt

The most important part of my job is making sure Missourians’ voices are heard in Washington. There’s no better way to do that than by visiting communities across our state and talking with families, veterans, farmers, and people from all walks of life about the issues they care about most. 

Earlier this month, I held my 2,500th event in our state. While every community I’ve visited is unique, two of the top issues on the minds of most Missourians are jobs and the economy. I’ve been working with President Trump to ensure our state can take full advantage of the incredible opportunities today and in the years ahead.

This is the best economy to get a job in that I can remember. With more job openings than job seekers, one of the biggest challenges we face is closing the skills gap and developing a workforce that can meet the demands of a growing economy.

The top concern for many of the small businesses I’ve visited over the years has been finding workers who have the right skills. That’s why I’ve visited trade schools, community colleges, and businesses large and small to talk about the important role that job training and apprenticeship programs play in helping people get ahead.

According to a 2018 survey by the Associated General Contractors of America, 80% of construction contractors said they were having trouble filling available jobs. In 2016, when I became chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Labor, we made apprenticeships a priority. Congress has invested some of your tax dollars in expanding apprenticeship opportunities over the past four years.

We’re working to create a new Career Pathways Initiative that will ensure high-school age kids can pursue a full range of options to help them not just get a job, but build a career – whether it’s attending a four-year university, a community college, or entering an apprenticeship program. That means knowing the kinds of jobs that are there, what they can pay, and the training necessary. More pathways to better jobs can get people to work faster in jobs they want to do.

Farm families at the Missouri State Fair told me the top issue on their minds was: “What do we do about trade?” Trade deals with other countries, like the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, provide more market certainty and create more opportunities for people to sell what they produce.

Trade deals that lower tariffs are good for agriculture, an $88 billion industry that employs nearly 400,000 people in our state. Under USMCA, U.S. agriculture exports are estimated to increase by $2.2 billion. Trade also benefits just about every part of Missouri’s economy. We make lots of things in our state: airplanes, pickup trucks, cars, farm equipment, and much more. One out of five Missouri manufacturers export goods to Canada and Mexico.

This trade agreement has hit a roadblock in the House of Representatives, and that’s unacceptable. President Trump announced the USMCA agreement more than a year ago. The Speaker of the House should move it forward. The votes are there and the House has to vote before the Senate on a trade bill.

Missouri is a national transportation hub, and location is our greatest competitive advantage. So improving our state’s transportation system should always be a top priority.

One of the last stops in my latest statewide tour was an event with Governor Mike Parson and local officials overlooking the Rocheport Bridge, which carries millions of people and billions of dollars in freight over the Missouri River every year. Replacing the decades-old bridge has been one of our state’s top transportation priorities, and the Trump administration announced in June that Missouri will receive the resources needed to move forward with a new bridge. This will prevent hours-long construction delays that would have made life difficult for residents and disrupted commerce.

It is an honor to represent Missourians in the Senate. There’s still a lot of work to be done in Washington, like fixing our broken immigration system, addressing the high cost of health care, strengthening our military, and more. I’ll continue visiting communities across our state and doing my best to make your priorities our priorities in the Senate.