Job Training Bill Crucial for Low-Income Workers
A bill introduced on June 7 by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Thad Cochran would help address the nation's unemployment crisis by increasing on-the-job training opportunities for unemployed adults and laid-off workers.
The On-the-Job Training Act of 2010 authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor to issue grants under the Workforce Investment Act to encourage businesses to hire and train low-income and unemployed workers by reimbursing some expenses incurred during training.
The nation's official unemployment rate continually increased through 2009 and, as of June 2010, remains at 9.5 percent. Last fall, CLASP released a set of recommendations for ensuring federal jobs creation strategies also focus on the unique needs of low-income populations hardest hit by the unemployment crisis. The On-the-Job Training Act of 2010 has the support of a number of national organizations and is consistent with CLASP's policy recommendations.
Roughly one in six workers are unemployed, underemployed (working part-time because they can't find full-time work) or so discouraged that they have altogether stopped looking for a job. For the least educated workers, communities of color and youth, the jobs situation is for worse.
The latest unemployment rate for individuals with less than a high school diploma is 14.1 percent, which is well above the national average and more than triple the rate of those with four-year college degrees. Blacks and Hispanics have unemployment rates of 15.4 percent and 12.4 percent respectively. For youth, the employment situation is particularly troubling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 5.8 million youth ages 16 to 24 are out of school and out of work. In addition, the teen (ages 16 to 19) unemployment rate rose dramatically from 15.2 percent in January 2007 to the current rate of 25.7 percent for all teens and 39.9 percent for black teens.
Lack of employment can have lasting consequences for workers, families and communities: skills and work habits deteriorate when workers are idle for extended periods; children in unemployed households bear the burden of stress and constrained resources; and long-term career prospects of young people diminish when they enter the labor market during times when no jobs are available.
Policymakers should take added steps to ensure more workers are equipped with: the supports they need to stay employed and provide for their families during this tough economic time; necessary skills to land newly created jobs as the economy recovers; and skills for long-term success in the labor market. The On the Job Training Act of 2010 is one strategy.
In Job Creation: Creating Work and Learning Opportunities for Low-Income Americans, CLASP outlines six strategies (including on-the-job training) for using the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families systems to create new work opportunities for low-income, unemployed workers.
These strategies called for investments in:
- employment opportunities for youth,
- transitional jobs for populations with barriers to employment,
- subsidized employment and internship opportunities,
- on the job training,
- wage subsidies,
- and extending the TANF Emergency Fund.
These targeted approaches can raise the skills of the nation's workforce and provide earned income to low-income workers hard hit by the recession. Each of these strategies complement necessary safety net supports and broader tax and other job creation strategies that are unlikely, in the near term, to trickle down to vulnerable workers and communities.