SkillWorks Celebrates 10 Years!

On Wednesday, September 18, SkillWorks together with its funders and partners celebrated 10 years of high impact work in workforce development. We produced this new video to highlight our work and some great participant stories. Enjoy!

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Congratulations to President Obama and all who won election to public office last night.  The election, however, is just the beginning.  We are going to need an all hands on deck approach, regardless of party, to address the issues we face as a country.

One issue in particular that looms before us is sequestration.

On January 2, 2013, $109 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts to both defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs are scheduled to go into effect.

So far, Congress has been unable or unwilling to come to agreement on how to avoid these automatic cuts.

One area in which sequestration will have devastating effects is funding for programs that provide job training and adult education and that help put people back to work.

Our federal workforce development programs have already lost more than $1 billion since 2010, and unless measures are taken to prevent sequestration, they will lose at least another $630 million in 2013.

In Massachusetts, this translates to a $10.7 million cut in 2013, which means 36,000 fewer people served.  In addition, it’s estimated that our state would lose up to 60,000 jobs as result of sequesters to non-defense discretionary and defense programs.

Our state’s residents and businesses cannot afford these cuts.  We still have over 200,000 unemployed workers in the state, as well as employers who say they need help finding skilled workers, and we need more resources, not less, focused on job creation efforts, skills training, and programs that help people get back to work.

As we send Congress back to Washington post-election, let’s remind our delegation that we need and want them to champion a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and we need them to take steps to invest in and improve our nation’s workforce system, not eliminate it.

Want to take action?  Contact your Senators and Representatives; join the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce; and make your voice heard.

Read more about the impact of sequestration on workforce programs in MA.

News coverage on the impact of sequestration on workforce training in MA (WAMC – Northeast Public Radio)

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?

Help wanted: Business leaders who support jobs, skills & training

This week at the Clinton Global Initiative-America (CGI-America) jobs and economic recovery covening in Chicago, the National Skills Coalition, Skills for America’s Future, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and Corporate Voices for Working Families announced the creation of Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships.  Business Leaders United is an initiative to bring diverse business leaders together to help shape a national skills strategy that can address structural skill shortages that are putting the brakes on economic recovery and job creation.

There couldn’t be a better time or greater need for such a group.  Congress cut $1 billion from the  federal workforce system in FY2011, and is looking at even deeper cuts in FY2012.  At the same time, study after study is pointing out that we still have a skills gap–that up to 2 million jobs may be unfilled despite the recession–because our workforce is inadequately trained.

Business leadership is needed more than ever to speak to the importance of an appropriately skilled and trained workforce to spur growth and competitiveness.

The new Business Leaders initiative, whose first investor is the Joyce Foundation, will wisely bring businesses to the table as partners in training delivery and in shaping workforce policy.   The initiative’s goals are to:

  • Expand the number of these partnerships by more than 30 percent across 50 states.
  • Facilitate conversations between local business leaders and federal policymakers about how private, philanthropic, and public dollars can be leveraged to replicate and sustain these partnerships nationally.

Will Massachusetts’ companies step up to the challenge?

Skills2Compete MA is seeking business partners to speak out on the importance of investing in our Commonwealth’s workforce and to help shape our skills training and education systems and investments.

As Patrick Flavin, AVP Director of Workforce Initiatives for The TJX Companies, Inc. said in announcing the Business Leaders United initiative, “In order to better realize long-term economic recovery, we need to close the gap between untapped talent and entry level workforce needs.”

Please join Skills2Compete MA and be part of the solution.

Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

This weekend, the Boston Globe ran an article that put a human face on the impact of the proposed workforce training and job placement program cuts in HR1.  In essence:

  • Most if not all of our state’s 37 career centers would close.
  • Hundreds of thousands of dislocated workers and the long-term unemployed in Massachusetts alone would lose training and re-employment resources.

This morning, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) released its Business Confidence Index, which revealed that while business confidence improved in March, employers are now concerned with their ability to fill positions with qualified candidates.  In fact 52% of respondents said they had experienced difficulty filling positions, even in this time of high unemployment, and that the biggest problem was the lack of people with required skills–both soft skills and more technical skills–in the applicant pool. Continue reading “Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?”