How to build the middle class

A few days ago, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the committee’s series of hearings on the state of the American worker. 

In the context of slowing economic growth and what are sure to be more cuts coming on the heels of the deficit reduction/debt ceiling deal apparently reached late Sunday, Secretary Solis’s remarks are a sobering reminder of the work that remains and the bipartisan support needed to get it done.

For readers of this blog, the Secretary’s recommendations for job training are simply common sense:

  • We need to help workers have access to skills that will support a lifetime career path of productive middle class jobs
  • We need to focus our training programs on high growth industries, with particular attention to science and technology and jobs in green energy, advanced manufacturing and health care.
  • We need to take a career pathways approach, putting together clear sequences of education and training that is aligned with the skill needs of employers, provides supportive services, and that results in the attainment of industry-recognized degrees or credentials and a job.
  • We need to place a greater emphasis on credentialing, because credentials help workers break into good-paying jobs and move between jobs as necessary.

What would be truly revolutionary is actually making the investments in programs and services that would grow the middle class.  With $2.4 trillion in cuts coming over the next ten years, it is likely that job training and placement programs will see even more cuts than the $1 billion that was just eliminated from workforce programs in the FY2011 Continuing Resolution.

It’s more important than ever to stand up and tell our political leaders that we want and expect them to support policies that grow and sustain the middle class, including those that help employers add middle skill jobs and that help American workers gain the skills they need to be successful in those jobs.

National Workforce Week of Action is coming up from August 15-19.  It’s our chance to speak up and be heard.  Will you join us?


Author: SkillWorks

SkillWorks is a nationally recognized workforce funder collaborative, launched by the Boston Foundation in 2003 to improve workforce development in Boston and across Massachusetts. SkillWorks brings together philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers to address the twin goals of: 1) Helping low-skill, low-income individuals attain family-supporting jobs; and 2) Helping employers find and retain skilled employees.

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