OLYMPIA—Legislation by Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) to help the economy in timber and farm country passed the House of Representatives with unanimous support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

“High skills are the pathway to high wages,” Chapman said. “There are good jobs going unfilled in rural counties because businesses can’t find workers with the right technical qualifications and certificates. This legislation is aimed at closing that skills gap so local families can get those middle-class jobs out in timber and farm country.”

House Bill 2177 creates a public-private partnership to offer one-year scholarships at community colleges in rural counties. The program is aimed at high-demand fields in each region and degrees or certificates that can be finished in a year. Examples of high-demand fields in Washington state include firefighting, early childhood education, computer science, accounting, law enforcement and computer science.

“Higher education is one of the best tools in our toolbox to revitalize our small towns and rural counties,” said Chapman, who’s leading the House Democratic effort on rural economic development. “When we traveled around the state listening to local folks and businesses, we heard again and again about filling the skills gap, so we can get people the education and skills they need for the high-skill jobs in the greatest demand.”

The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.


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