Chauncy LennonA World Without WIA?

By: Chauncy Lennon In: Workforce

21 Mar 2011

Within the federal budget debate, there are unprecedented threats to a meager but principal source of federal training funds: the 1998 Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

For instance, HR 1—the House-passed Continuing Resolution (CR)—would eliminate all funding for the WIA in program year (PY) 2011. This means if the House-passed bill was signed by the president, WIA would receive no new funding as of July 1, 2011 (the start of PY 2011) and would receive no additional funding until July 1, 2012 (the start of PY 2012).

WIA has not been reauthorized since its passage in 1998. With each extension of the law, new rules and adjustments have been made. Even the most ardent supporters of WIA would probably agree that it is an imperfect policy and even more imperfect in practice.

So is training and education still needed? Despite persistent unemployment, there are jobs going unfilled because people do not possess the skills needed to do the work. Current projections estimate that every year, an additional 300,000 Americans will need to earn a college degree or credentials to meet the projected demand for skilled workers in the coming years. Zeroing out federal education and training options doesn’t seem like a strategic way to address this skills gap.

The workforce funding community is playing an important role in building workers’ skills and meeting industry needs while improving the economic security of families. The Full Circle Dialogue on Workforce at next month’s Council on Foundations 2011 Annual Conference in Philadelphia will highlight ongoing strategies and initiatives, and will allow participants to ask questions about grantmaking, advocacy, partnerships, and reform approaches.

We hope you join us Monday, April 11, from 12 to 1:30 p.m. to talk about these issues and more. If you care about workforce issues, we would love to hear from you. But let’s start the conversation online now.

These budget-slashing measures may not be the most thoughtful way to end federal job training, but what if they happen? What do you think the workforce training landscape will look like? Is there a constituency beyond providers and advocates that will stand up and make their voices heard? Will jobseekers protest? What will happen at the local level as funds evaporate? Will new solutions—both public and private—emerge? How will philanthropy respond?

Chauncy Lennon is the Program Officer of Quality Employment, at the Ford Foundation

3 Responses to A World Without WIA?

Seth Green

March 22nd, 2011 at 12:05 pm

To your question, I think there is a constituency for job training, but it’s remarkably invisible. During this whole recession, I’ve been struck by how silent Americans are about specific economic and financial policies. Every study shows that Americans care deeply about these issues — jobs are the the number one item on the political agenda. But when it comes to specific policies, the public is largely silent.

There are a few efforts that are beginning to make the constituency for job training more visible. The National Skills Coalition comes to mind as an example. But until these movements become fully visible, job training is likely to continue to face budget threats — even, ironically, in an economy where access jobs is the number one concern. In many ways, it reinforces the need for philanthropy to support organizing and advocacy to give voice to the numbers and the interest in these economic opportunity issues. I am personally excited to hear at the Full Circle Dialogues how other funders are thinking about supporting advocacy around this.

Vanessa Cedeno

March 31st, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Building on Seth’s previous comment, I wonder if the reason the public is largely silent on economic policy issues is because they feel like understanding economic policy is beyond their ability and so they shy away from it. Are funders working on ways to engage the public in the debate? Do we know of any organizations or advocates working on innovative communication strategies?

Nancy with WIA

August 12th, 2011 at 11:26 am

These are very drastic measures within the political stand point however it will be necessary to make certain cuts. This nation cannot undergo such amount of debt and of course training, while it is paramount to the advancement of our country, it is not a need.
Much is said about poeple who need federal moneys for food, housing, medical services, education, etc. etc. How about educating the middle class? People who work and still are not able to obtain the education needed due to having to pay the total amount of their tuitions. Let’s realize that our country is supporting individuals who are used to not working and getting a “free load” as we know.
It is time for a change. For a fresh new start. Let’s get these people to work and to pay taxes as the hard-working middle class do so they can now collaborate with training costs. Let’s get them to do a mandatory volunteer job in our communities, because we all know that make believe applying for employment happens all the time however if this is mandatory to get their unemployment checks we might just see a few people wanting to go back to work.
I hate to say this but it is the truth.

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