President Proposes New Investments in America's Workforce
February 15, 2012 | Neil Ridley and Marcie Foster
Given that low-income, low-skill workers have been hard hit by the recent recession, President Obama's proposal to make substantial new short-term investments in education and training leading to a job is a wise investment for workers and the nation.
In his FY 2013 budget proposal released Monday, the president called for an $8 billion Community College to Career Fund to train 2 million workers for jobs in high-demand and high-growth fields. The president announced the initiative in late January during his State of the Union address and provided more details in his budget proposal. The funds would support public and private partnerships and would be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education. States and community colleges, in partnership with businesses, could use the funding for training leading to industry-recognized credentials, registered apprenticeships, employer-based training, paid internships for low-income students, entrepreneurship training and regional or industry partnerships involving employers.
The FY 2013 budget would double funding of the Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF), which is expected to be invested in service delivery strategies and/or system-level reform efforts that improve employment and educational outcomes for workers, create efficiencies in the workforce system, and foster strong cooperation across adult education, postsecondary education, workforce training, and human services systems.
Funding for core adult education and training programs generally is maintained at current levels. The request includes $595 million for state grants under Title II of the Workforce Investment Act , which includes a $15 million contribution toward the WIF. This contribution to the WIF is not offset by an increase in formula or leadership funds as the president proposed in in previous years, resulting in an effective cut to federal adult education funding. Funding for the Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker programs would be slightly reduced, and the Youth program would be flat-funded.
Other proposals in this year's budget include the development of a Pathways Back to Work Fund which would provide subsidized employment and training to help unemployed workers and youth enter the workforce and gain new skills for long-term employment. An earlier version of this Fund has been incorporated in legislation in both the House (HR 3425, introduced by Rep. Miller) and Senate (S 1861, introduced by Sen. Blumenthal).
The short-run investments in the Community College to Career Fund and the Pathways Back to Work Fund are critical to getting unemployed workers and others who have been left behind the skills they need to enter and advance in the workforce. The continued investments in the Workforce Innovation Fund and core programs are likely to deepen our understanding of what works for low-skill, low-income individuals and boost implementation of promising strategies, such as career pathways and models that blend basic skills and occupational preparation.