Washington, D.C. – The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is recommending several reforms to improve the nearly fifty job-training programs administered by the federal government and better meet the needs of 3.9 million long-term unemployed Americans, individual state labor markets and employers. Despite an $18 billion investment annually in these programs, there are widespread reports about companies that cannot find skilled workers to fill millions of openings. The report, Getting Work: How Government Can Do Better Preparing Americans for Today’s Jobs, is authored by seven former Republican and Democratic governors, all members of BPC’s Governors’ Council.
BPC’s Governors’ Council recommends that Congress initiate a “10/10” demonstration project that would allow up to ten states to take 10 percent fewer dollars than the state would have received in 2014 in exchange for the flexibility to design a workforce program that meets the needs of the state. In applying to become one of the designated demonstration projects, states would negotiate a memorandum that defines how that grant would be applied, and engage in a partnership with the federal government and local workforce boards to develop a more efficient and effective program.
“As a governor, my number one priority was creating jobs. I was frustrated by the amount of federal money being spent on programs to prepare people for work and yet, despite the number of available jobs, hard-working individuals still could not find gainful employment,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “The federal programs are well-intentioned but often ineffective. I am so pleased to take part in this effort to provide the insights of governors from a diverse group of states on how to craft an effective workforce system.”
The report also recommends strengthening educational programs beyond the traditional four-year college degree to include technical education, and high school and community college curriculums. To bridge the divide between workforce programs and development goals, to create jobs and to grow businesses, the Governors’ Council recommends emphasizing work-based learning such as employer partnerships, and incorporating industry-sponsored, standards-based, and recognized “stackable” credentials as part of degree tracks, such as certifications or certificates.
Finally, the report calls on Congress to work with governors and local officials to develop common economic and workforce development governance structures that ensure that existing programs more closely meet local and regional needs. The report also found that timely and reliable labor-market information, for job seekers and employers, is a critical, missing piece. The report recommends that Congress direct the federal agencies to conduct a fast-track review of and implement reforms to the existing federal occupational databases. Also, the federal government should directly engage with business and industry to improve the data about jobs, skills and education.
“There are nearly 4 million long term unemployed Americans. Yet, policymakers continue to hear from employers that they cannot find skilled workers for job openings,” said Governor Linda Lingle. “We have failed as a country to align our workforce training and education programs with the needs of our employers. With so many still needing work, it is time to take a comprehensive look at all of the nation’s workforce programs.”
BPC’s Governors’ Council includes seven former Republican and Democratic governors: Phil Bredesen of Tennessee; Jim Douglas of Vermont; Brad Henry of Oklahoma; Linda Lingle of Hawaii; Sonny Perdue of Georgia; Mike Rounds of South Dakota; and Ted Strickland of Ohio. In addition to tackling reform of the federal workforce programs in 2014, the Governors’ Council is also working to make certain that our youth are prepared for post-secondary work and education.