Utica, NY (WIBX) - Working differently to improve and understand the role of higher education in fostering job creation and security was the main theme during the official field hearing on the state of education in the Mohawk Valley. 24th District Congressman Richard Hanna who organized the hearing says this is just the beginning of his overall efforts to improve the education and economic situation in the area, and added that it's not always about throwing more money to fix the problems.

Hanna said, "It's about the competitive nature of the world we live in and it's not always about the money. The assumption is, I think, that you throw more money at things and somehow ... well, that's kind of an American truism that we need to walk away from a little bit. We need to be smarter, spend money more wisely, be less intrusive, give people more opportunities and teachers and educators more opportunity to be adventurous in their own ways, work toward best practices and be smart about the one thing that we need to do for all of us and that is educate ourselves."

Hanna, along with the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, Congressman John Kline, took testimony from industry leaders and local politicians, who all agreed that a road map to improve the connection between institutions of higher education and the work force is needed to put more people to work.

Dave Mathis, Director of the Oneida County Workforce Development, testified that the unemployment rate in Utica is at 8-percent and added that one out of 10 people use the services of the one stop center due to unemployment. When asked about some of the barriers his department contents with, Mathis pointed to the bureaucracy. "We get tied up so often in process, we spend so much time reporting and trying to monitor what we're doing as supposed to going out and doing it. When people come into our One Stop Center they want to be served then--they want to get training, they want to get a job. And what we need to do is cut down some of the barriers that keep this from happening," Mathis said.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. said the better path toward improved collaboration to connect people with jobs is for the government to stop reauthorizing unemployment benefits and instead, reinvest that money into education, "with a focus on putting people to work rather than keeping them out," he said.

Congressman Kline said, "We got a continuation of the story we've been hearing now for days and weeks, and months, that we need, I think, a better connection between institutions of higher education, which is fundamentally what this is about, but education at large in the work place. We still have unemployment at unacceptable levels, still about 9-percent, nationally 8.9 percent, much high in some areas, and we've got colleges and universities trying to educate the work force and we want to make sure that the education is appropriate for the work place."

The witness list:

Anthony Picente, Jr., Oneida County Executive

Dave Mathis, Director, Oneida County Workforce Development

Dr. John Bay, VP/Chief Scientist, Assured Information Security, Inc.

Dr. Bjong Wolf Yeigh, President, SUNY IT

Dr. Ann Marie Murray, President, HCCC

Dr. Judith Kirkpatrick, Provost, UC

Mr. Phil Williams, President, USC (not in attendance)