Workforce Development Council Focused on Putting Americans Back to Work
By Juliette Jardim
February 1, 2010
Over 40 workforce development directors from around the country came together for The U.S. Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council (WDC) Annual Winter Meeting January 19—20, held in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors 78th Annual Winter Meeting. Outgoing WDC President Michael Gritton, Executive Director of KentuckianaWorks, and incoming President Karen Sitnick, Director of the Baltimore Office of Employment Development, presided over the session. Key themes throughout the meeting included Workforce Investment Act reauthorization, Summer Jobs, job training funding opportunities, and Green Jobs training.
Congressman John Tierney (MA) of the House Education and Labor Committee called for increased federal funding for workforce training to invest in the economy and maintain its competitiveness during his address to the WDC. Tierney emphasized that we should set priorities for spending rather than stop spending altogether, so we know that the spending is worthwhile. "It's important to reflect on how we got here, so we can make sure to not do things again as we did before," he said.
Congressman Brett Guthrie (KY) of the House Education and Labor Committee cited his father's and his own experience in blue collar work as the reason he got into state government and legislature. "How do you adapt people to the new economy?" he asked. Guthrie outlined his recently introduced Workforce Investment Improvement Act (WIA) reauthorization bill, citing specifically how it will address the changing economy with an equally changing workforce.
Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates was joined by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hansell to give the Keynote Address January 20. "I'm not a person who talks about stuff in the abstract. We're operationalizing and delivering." Oates encouraged the workforce directors to contact their congress members to express their priorities for the Jobs Bill and WIA reauthorization, said she believed WIA reauthorization is likely this year and announced that a mandate for all future job training funding would require all programs to lead towards a degree.
Oates and Hansell jointly announced a letter on co-mingling subsidized employment money to put disadvantaged youth or adults to work. Hansell described the funding opportunities available through the TANF Emergency Fund. "Everyone in this room agrees this is the time to put people back to work," said Hansell.
"The best anti-crime program is a job," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter during his presentation on his Resources for Human Development (RHD) Green Jobs Training program for ex-offenders. He emphasized that finding a job in the first six to eight months after re-entry from prison is the most critical factor in whether or not an ex-convict will commit another crime. The program trains workers for soft skills as well as technical skills so they will be able to go from job to job in response to the changing economy. Nutter found that some businesses have begun to recruit directly from the program because they found that ex-offenders worked harder than your average worker because they were so grateful to be given a second chance.
The WDC heard from congressional staffers Scott Cheney, Majority Staff Director for the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workforce Safety; Kelly Hastings, Professional Staff Member for the Senate HELP Committee; and Allison Dembeck, Minority Professional Staff for the House Committee on Education and Labor on the Workforce Outlook for the 111th Congress. The staffers described the environment for Workforce Investment Act reauthorization on the Senate and the House from the majority and minority perspectives.
Dembeck outlined the Republican legislation, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act, while Cheney and Hastings spoke of their collaborative effort in the Senate. "You can't have a Jobs Creation bill without WIA reauthorization," said Hastings.