Invest In All American Workers: Improve Access To Skills Training

Goodwill Industries International
Wednesday, 2 July 2003

Coalition of 35 Agencies Calls For "Bridges To Self-Sufficiency"

The economic vitality of the United States is at risk, says a coalition of 35 human services and advocacy groups, if the new iteration of the 1998 Workforce Investment Act (WIA) fails to provide a level playing field for all American workers. As lawmakers debate the reauthorization of WIA, the coalition is urging Congress to build an effective, universally accessible system of one-stop career centers that meets the needs of both workers and businesses, and focuses on people with barriers to work.

"Employers increasingly demand high-skilled labor and better-educated workers, yet the nation's workforce development system has made it more difficult for job-seekers to access training," states the coalition in a letter to Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training. "Reauthorization of WIA presents Congress with an opportunity to substantially improve access to training for individuals with barriers to work and help build bridges to self-sufficiency." The coalition notes that WIA has often been implemented in a way that forces some individuals "to be immediately placed in low-paying jobs rather than allowing them to train for more skilled positions that may better meet the needs of local employers."

"The WIA system can meet the demands of our businesses, and provide people with sufficient training opportunities to help them get a good job, support their families, and move up the career ladder," says George W. Kessinger, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. "By investing in all American workers, we invest in the American economy."

"Leveling the playing field for all workers is essential for accessing meaningful training opportunities," says Raul Yzaguirre, President of the National Council of La Raza. "This will not only help jump start the nation's economy, but will also help empower all Americans to achieve the American dream."

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that jobs requiring the least education will experience the least growth over the next 10 years, while jobs requiring at minimum an associate's degree will grow at a rate of 31 percent.

The coalition urges Congress to maintain prioritization of service for people with barriers to work seeking intensive training services under WIA, and to develop performance measures that reflect the challenges associated with serving disadvantaged populations. The coalition also offers a number of specific recommendations for the reauthorized WIA, including:

  • Guaranteed access to all one-stop programs and services for all people seeking help, particularly those with disabilities and limited English proficiency.

  • Training opportunities for incumbent workers that emphasize retention and advancement of low-wage workers to better-paying jobs.
  • Incentives for business partnerships, such as customized training programs for jobs in emerging sectors.
  • Substantial increase of resources for training, work supports such as childcare and transportation, and employee retention.
  • "Removing barriers to jobs and preparing job-seekers from every community to meet the challenges of the 21st century workforce will not only help families help themselves, but also will make our economy stronger," says Joan Kuriansky, Executive Director of Wider Opportunities for Women.

    The 35 human services agencies and advocacy groups that form the coalition represent diverse populations, including low-income workers, welfare recipients, people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as adults with child or adult care responsibilities, homemakers seeking jobs after an absence from the workforce, women trying to earn good wages in nontraditional fields, limited English speakers and immigrants.

    For more information, or to contact Goodwill Industries International, see their website at: www.goodwill.org

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