Portman tours Mingo plant

MINGO JUNCTION – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said Monday federal job training dollars need to be spent in ways that better prepare workers to meet real needs in the job market.

Portman’s comments came as the Ohio Republican toured the Cryogenic Construction plant outside Mingo Junction to draw attention to bipartisan legislation he introduced last week to make federal job training programs more responsive to the needs of the 21st century job market.

Portman said there are currently “47 different programs spread among nine different departments and agencies,” and the private sector has little input “in the front end” of the training being offered.

“We need to train people for the jobs that are actually here as opposed to the jobs that don’t exist in the region,” he said, adding that it’s imperative federal retraining dollars be spent “in ways (job seekers) can use.”

He cited Cryogenic as a great example of the opportunities that now exist in the oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, Portman, who’d met privately with Cryogenic Construction founder Mark Bordash and his son, Matt, prior to the plant tour, said the focus in Congress right now “is on jobs.”

“We talked about trade, energy policy and taxes, what federal policies could help (them) succeed,” he said of the meeting, noting the importance of ensuring other countries “play by the rules” in U.S. markets.

He also defended his recent vote against a proposal that would have expanded background checks on gun sales, saying he’d supported measures “I thought would help us avoid terrible tragedies like Newtown (Conn.) and I voted against measures I didn’t think would help and which would go against the Second Amendment.”

Portman said he supported legislation that would have boosted school safety, bridged the mental health gap and prosecuted those accused of crimes involving guns, but said the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment would have restricted “private sales … that aren’t covered now,” expanding background checks for most private sales and private transfers of guns.

“As authors of the amendment acknowledged, it would have done nothing to stop the Newtown tragedy,” he wrote in a letter to constituents. “It also would do little to stop criminals who likely would continue to evade such restrictions. But it did include some restrictions that would criminalize certain private transfers of guns between law-abiding Ohioans.”

Portman said he’d co-sponsored and supported bipartisan bills that would have strengthened state reporting of individuals deemed mentally ill by the court system, improved school safety, cracked down on gun trafficking and targeted individuals who buy guns to sell on the black market to individuals who can’t pass background checks, adding that it’s “unfortunate that most of these bills did not pass.”