Linking Good Workers to Good Jobs: Improving Systems and Partnerships

A SparkAction summary
February 18, 2013

Our economy continues to create quality jobs, but for many young people with low skills these jobs are out of reach. Should we tell young people just to work harder at completing complete a post-secondary degree or are there systemic ways to improve their odds?

In the 2013 State of the Union, the President announced a plan to work with states and colleges to incentivize programs that revamp career and technical education—and a chance for employment for all. NPR’s On Point summarized some of the new proposals from the speech and what they mean for education and job training.

New numbers on long-term unemployment

The February jobs report from the Economic Policy Institute includes a helpful chart that compares unemployment for 16-18 year olds from the prerecession 2007 and now, and it's striking.

In 2007, there was 10 percent unemployment for 16-18-year olds. Now, the unemployment rate has has risen to 16 percent.

The good news: we are recovering. The not so good news: job growth is too slow to make a dent in unemployment for several years.

Innovative Solutions and Partnerships

In States ...

In a report for the Institute for Research on Poverty, Harry Holzer proposes some remedies, based on the promising results from programs like Career Academies, apprenticeships and incumbent worker training programs, which link learning with workforce experience and job market needs.If you want to know more about why workforce development programs are important for youth at risk, this is a good read.

Holzer argues that we’ve increased Pell grants but have let our WIA (Workforce Investment Act) programs lag behind. That’s where the work of the National Skills Coalition comes in, working on improving WIA through the overdue reauthorization process.

As for parternships, the National Skills Coalition and partners offer a snapshot of state sector strategies today: an overview of what makes them different from traditional workforce and economic development programs. They also provide a description of actions that state administrators and policymakers can take as part of a policy framework to support the strategies’ creation and effective operation.

Sector strategies are one of the few workforce interventions with statistical evidence showing improvements in employment opportunities for workers and increases in their wages. Amidst the challenges of the slowly recovering national economy, these strategies can do the following:

  • Address current and emerging skill gaps.
  • Provide a means to engage directly with industry across traditional boundaries
  • Sector strategies work across the boundaries to identify and address specific workforce needs in almost every industry.
  • Better align state programs and resources serving employers and workers.

... And at the federal level

While we work to strengthen workforce development, Corporate Voices for Working Families and Year Up are highlighting why federal policymakers should engage employers to help determine how to spend federal money to improve outcomes for opportunity youth. In this three-part Huffington Post blog series, they share solid recommendations of how this partnership could work, and engage young people with the skills and desire to work in good jobs to help boost the economy., this doesn't mean it's time to give up on college for youth.

Expanding the Pell Grant program, reducing student-loan debt and eliminating tuition tax breaks are necessary steps toward improving the federal financial-aid system, according to Rebalancing Resources and Incentives in Federal Student Aid, the new report and policy recommendations from the New America Foundation.

The report proposes specific policy changes that would reorganize several hundreds of billions of dollars in spending to deal with what the authors say are inefficiencies in postsecondary financial aid, and nothing is off-limits. They recommend specific changes to federal grants, loans, tax benefits, college outreach programs and federal regulations to provide more direct aid to the lowest-income students, while strengthening accountability for institutions of higher education to ensure that more students are able to earn affordable, high-quality credentials.

Check out their handy dandy chart of their recommendations to the right.