While discussing job creation and training at a recent regional workforce investment board meeting, we were told not to expect much changing over the next few years until the nation undergoes an administrative change in 2017.
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was passed in 1998 under the Clinton Administration replacing the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) as the largest single source of federal funding for workforce development activities. WIA was designed to create a universal access system of one-stop career centers, which would provide access to training and employment services for a range of workers, including low-income adults, low-income youth, and dislocated workers. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress made substantial, badly-needed new investments in WIA.
Since then, WIA has limped along waiting for reauthorization to help ensure our nation’s workers receive the services and support they need to go back to work and begin rebuilding our economy and their lives. The underlying purpose of WIA is to ensure that every U.S. worker has an opportunity at good employment.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, dollars and initiative have been scarce. One would think that rebuilding the economy, focusing on training and education to keep pace with the world economy, would be one of our highest priorities. The American worker has always wanted nothing more than an opportunity to prove their worth. In prior generations, a “job” was considered to be the pathway to prosperity.
This theory was endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans as no one ever doubted the resolve and creativity of the American worker to overcome whatever obstacles may be placed in his or her way. But in recent years, more dollars and greater emphasis has been placed on government handouts and support programs than on job creation and the retraining of the American workforce to adapt to the new demands of the technology and the world market.
Government support programs cannot provide a substitute for creating new jobs that are necessary for new tax revenue and development of our community economies. Jobs must be created by the private sector so that more taxes are generated while unemployment is decreased -- especially by the long term unemployed -- for the whole economy to expand.
Even Pope Francis seems to understand that simple fact. “The rich must help, respect and promote the poor,” he recently said. “I exhort you to generous solidarity.” Clearly His Holiness understands that we need greater generosity from those who can give and not more mandatory income redistribution brought about by government intervention. Charities not only perform better than governments when offering assistance, but their efforts are focused appropriately based on their specific purpose and community.
The simple thought that workforce development is not one of our nation’s highest priorities and instead is a topic to be bantered about in the next presidential election is a serious waste of time and great loss of opportunity. “It’s the economy, stupid” shouldn’t just be a great political one-liner when seeking office but must be one of the three top priorities of all elected officials.
The only way to get our economic engine running at full throttle is to unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit and ensure that we are preparing our children, the underemployed and the unemployed worker to meet workplace demands. This is what the Workforce Investment Act was created to address. Leaving that valuable resource on the sidelines during the next few years, seems a terrible waste of time and money to me.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.