By Che Watkins, The Center for Working Families
There are two recent reports that I have read that I am really excited about. Job training, workforce development and access to affordable education are rapidly becoming the hottest topics for companies today. We have seen recent commentary from a number of major employers lamenting that their major challenge is finding trained employees to fill the thousands of positions that they have available.
The first article that speaks to this is around job training and exploring the potential to make it even better. Maureen Conway, the executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program at The Aspen Institute, describes one of the top challenges for effective job training programs – can you guess what it is? Yes, funding! But it is also about what funding sources can be used for. We have seen rare bipartisan support for federal funding for job training programs however funding has decreased over time. According to a report by worker rights group National Skills Coalition,
since 2001 the government has cut funds for workforce training programs by 40%.In addition to cuts in funding, workforce development providers have to figure out how to combine funding resources to truly cover the costs that students incur while in those programs. Conway states, “Part of the funding problem is that available resources tend to cover only the direct operating costs of a training program, and nothing more. Learning takes people away from existing work, even if their jobs are low-paid. They often still have rent to pay and family members to take care of. Successful job training programs need to factor these costs into their funding projections, or at least offer adequate resources to connect participants with other organizations that can help with childcare, housing, transportation, food, and other basics.”
The next question is, what is the appetite for additional funding to cover the true costs of training? That brings me to a recent poll that was conducted by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute that conducted a survey around their People-Powered Prosperity vision. I encourage you to read the entire report from cover to cover, but one question stuck out to me as it relates to this issue. The survey asked, “In order to meet the growing demand for technically skilled jobs, grow the economy and tax base in Georgia, would you support or oppose tuition-free post-secondary technical training in Georgia?” Seventy-five percent of the respondents said yes to this question.
What this tells me is that most Georgians understand the current needs relating to closing this current workforce gap. What we need to figure out is how to make that happen so that all of those that want to get retrained and want to work can effectively and easily do so while they also manage the day to day expenses that they incur. I am 100% certain that we can do this together!