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