Companies bearing the fruits of economic revival are turning to government-sponsored job centers only to find out that a lack of properly funded training has left a workforce shortage. This is the story the New York Times tells in a recent piece highlighting situations in Louisville, Seattle and elsewhere.
In Seattle, for example, the region’s seven centers provided training for less than 5 percent of the 120,000 people who came in last year seeking to burnish their skills. And in Dallas, officials say they have annual funds left to support only 43 people in training programs, nowhere near enough to help the 23,500 people who have lost their jobs in the last 10 weeks alone.
Programs like these are essential in times of need and yet the funding is simply not there.
At the peak in 2000, the federal government was spending more than $2.1 billion a year in today’s dollars for training programs aimed at dislocated workers under the Workforce Investment Act. Stimulus funds added close to $1.5 billion over two years, but now annual spending has receded to about $1.2 billion.
The cuts “make it harder to meet the employers’ needs,” said Michael Gritton, executive director of KentuckianaWorks, which oversees four government-financed job centers in Louisville. “And obviously you have these individual customers who are asking for help to climb back into the middle class and you can’t help them either.”
The problem is that without these programs, unemployed workers cannot afford the certifications and training needed to work available jobs. In a classic chicken-and-egg scenario, companies then claim they cannot add to their workforce without skilled workers. The lack of funding only stifles the career paths of those trying to find new work and hurts the government in the long run because of a limited income tax pool.
President Obama has asked that more be done in terms of training budgets, according to his team:
In his latest budget proposal, President Obama also requested an additional $2.8 billion a year for job training over the next decade. “Even in this very tight budget,” said Gene Sperling, national economic adviser, “the president felt that there was an imperative to call right now for a more simplified and effective training system” that also had an increase in funds.
But the GOP’s budget proposals have called for restraints in spending in these areas. These restraints are unwelcome news to those currently in training programs:
Jacqueline Francis, who was laid off from a job in human resources about a year and a half ago. Since then, she has followed the all-too-familiar drill of sending out résumés and cover letters that are never answered.
With her savings depleted, she wants to return to school and switch careers. Ms. Francis, a divorced mother in Louisville with a daughter in high school and a son in college, has pinpointed nursing, a field she considers most likely to provide employment.
Last month, she visited a job center run by KentuckianaWorks only to learn that the $240,000 allocated for health care training had been spent.
“I could have cried,” Ms. Francis said. She said she would apply for financial aid at the local community college and sell items in her wardrobe to pay for a nursing degree. “I want to better my situation.”
Read the full NYT piece HERE.