Tune in to WTIC 1080-AM, on Saturday, August 27, from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.for United Way's Community Connections radio show!
THIS MONTH'S TOPIC: “Tomorrow’s Talent: Preparing Our Young People for Work” Featuring:
Susan Dunn, president and CEO of United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut,
CWP's Jim Boucher
Tim Lefebvre, a university relations recruiter at Aetna
Ashley Hernandez, a recent high school graduate who has completed two summer internships at Aetna through CWP’s Career Connections program.
Join us for the conversation!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. currently has approximately three million job openings, all waiting to be filled. With so many Americans out of work, what is the delay? Workers want to work, and so many businesses want to hire—but there is a widening "skills gap" that prevents many Americans from filling the jobs of the 21st century economy. If we want to get our economy back on track and get workers back on the job, we will have to address this issue in a better way.
Consider this: According to a report by the National Commission on Adult Literacy, 90 million adults have literacy skills so low that success in postsecondary education and training is becoming more and more challenging. Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University, using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, reports that of the nearly 50 million new jobs the BLS projects to be created by 2018, 30 million will require recognized postsecondary credentials. However, there will be three million too few workers with these credentials. Meanwhile, high-school graduation rates are falling—1.2 million students in America drop out of school every year, and young adults are now less educated than their parents' generation was.
A recent report on this issue from the perspective of CEOs and college presidents found that more than half of the companies surveyed reported a challenge in finding candidates with the right skills. Of the smaller businesses, 67% said finding skilled workers was difficult. A Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Survey reveals that while half of small-business owners hired new workers in 2010, 42% of these hired "fewer" [employees] than needed." Sixty-two percent of that group said this was because it was "hard to find qualified employees for [the] positions available."Getty ImagesAdding to the urgency of the situation is the reality that the U.S. competes in a global economy, and businesses today take stock of assets around the globe when they make investment decisions. The sad fact is that we spend considerably less than other developed countries on labor-market policies, including work-force training and job-search programs. At the individual level, the U.S. invested only $908 per labor-market participant—$84 dollars, or 9.2%, less than the average amount spent by other member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
We believe that the skills gap is a consequence of our failure to seriously invest in the education of America's work force. Without an educated pool of workers from which to hire, small businesses are bearing the financial burden of teaching these skills.
John Russo, the president of Scientific Analytical Solutions in North Kingston, R.I., recently talked to the AP about the problem his small business faces: "It's very difficult to find the right person, and there's all walks of life trying to find jobs. I honestly think there's a large swath of unemployable. They don't have any skills at all."
The Small Business Administration (SBA) hears the same sentiments from those on the front lines in its field offices across the country. At a recent roundtable organized by the Senate Small Business Entrepreneurship Committee, SBA district directors repeatedly cited the alarming, widening skills gap in the nation as preventing small businesses from expanding.
As we work to create jobs and get our economy back on track, closing this skills gap needs to be a top priority. A critical first step: reauthorizing and reforming the Workforce Investment Act, our nation's foundational federal work-force development policy. We also need to expand innovative approaches that have produced results, such as career pathways programs that provide labor-market information to students and job seekers about in-demand jobs, and the skills and education necessary to get them.
Other important elements of tackling this problem include integrating education and work-based learning, and supporting strategies that allow learners to work while receiving training (also known as "earn and learn" strategies). We should also support public–private partnerships that draw on the expertise of successful members of the business community to help provide assistance and job-preparation advice to our work force.
Building a bigger and more highly skilled work force will help our small businesses step up to global competition. There's no excuse to delay getting to work on the problem any longer.
Ms. Landrieu, a Democratic senator from Louisiana, is chairwoman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Ms. Murray, a Democratic senator from Washington, is chairwoman of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The Deficit Deal: What It Means for Low-Income Americans
Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity is tracking the impact of the deficit deal on low-income people. Check back here for up-to-date news and information about key developments.
Resources and Reactions on the Deficit Deal:
A Debt Opportunity Deferred, Not Entirely Lost, Alan D. Viard
What Is Next for the U.S. Economy, Post-Debt Ceiling Debate? Karen Dynan, Vice President and Co-Director, Economic Studies
Good News and Bad News in Debt Limit Deal, William G. Gale, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies
WebChat: The Day After the Debt Limit Deadline, Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies
On Debt Ceiling, Congress Defers Tough Decisions (Cato Institute video)
Budget Deal Doesn't Cut Spending, Chris Edwards
A Deal, Not a Solution, Michael D. Tanner
Debt Deal: Spending in Perspective, Tad DeHaven
The Deficit Deal In the News:
"The changes will generate an estimated $22billion in savings. Of that amount, $17 billion will be used to preserve the federal Pell grant program, which provides grants of up to $5,550 a year to low-income college students."
"Michigan Budget Director John Nixon noted Tuesday that 44% of the state's budget is federally funded, and if deep reductions are made in that funding -- especially in a haphazard,across-the-board fashion -- it could have dramatic results."
"Money Michigan spends on roads, education,welfare and health care for the poor is among the more than $2 trillion at risk under the federal deal to raise the debt ceiling. The details were not clear Monday on the impact to the state of the spending cuts announced Sunday night.Some of the known changes relate more to what wasn't part of the agreement than what was in it."
"This budget: Doubles property tax relief for middle-class families and restores the Senior Freeze Program. Increases aid for all our schools. Protects vital health safety nets for low-income families,senior citizens, the disabled and the uninsured."
A nonprofit group consisting predominately of business leaders and inspired by a commission appointed by former-Gov. M. Jodi Rell called Tuesday for the implementation of 65 recommendations included its report, which they said will help to close Connecticut’s worst-in-the-country achievement gap.
The group originated as the Connecticut Commission on Education Achievement, a Rell initiative comprised of philanthropic and business leaders. And according to Chairwoman Peyton R. Patterson, former CEO of New Alliance Bank, business input is why the group will succeed where other nonprofits have failed.
“Some people may wonder, ‘why do we need another education focused nonprofit in the state of Connecticut? We have several.’ While Connecticut is fortunate to have some amazing organizations on some facet of education reform, there is no group, sponsored by the business community, that addressed the comprehensive statewide scope of the council,” she said during a press conference at the state Capitol.
The group’s recommendations focus on changing the governance of education, push for access to prekindergarten, and demand accountability of schools and teachers, she said.
For years, the state’s academic performance gap between low and non-low income students has confounded leaders. On average Connecticut spends more on the education of each student than most other states in the country.
And while Connecticut students traditionally perform well on standardized testing, the achievement gap persists. On the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress for 8th grade math, Connecticut had the largest score gap of 34. That’s three points larger than Maryland, the state with the second biggest gap on that test, according statistics from the U.S. Department of Education.
Discussion about the topic is plagued by misconceptions, Patterson said. Many attribute the achievement gap to the high performance of Connecticut’s non-low income students. The reality, she said, is the problem is largely due to the poor performance of its low-income students, who rank in the nation’s bottom third.
“Connecticut’s low-income students on average perform like states like Arkansas, Louisiana and West Virginia,” she said.
The council stressed that the wide academic divide between income levels is not strictly a city problem, as many people believe. The fourth grade reading achievement gap is actually larger in wealthy towns like West Hartford, Greenwich and Stamford than it is in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, they said.
“Although the achievement gap is wider in wealthier districts, low-income students actually have better academic achievement in these districts. So it is safe to say the achievement gap affects all of us, it exists in every town and every district across the state of Connecticut,” Patterson said.
The divide impacts the state’s economy because educational failure comes at a huge cost, she said. Students who dropped out of high school have an unemployment rate close to 2.5 times than that of high school grads and on average they earn just two-thirds of their incomes, she said.
They are more likely also to end up in state prisons and more likely to be relying on government health care and public services, according to studies.
More dropouts also mean a loss of tax dollars for the state. High school graduates contribute approximately $500,000 more in net tax contributions, she said.
Despite the current budget crisis, the council said the time for education reform is now. The state must accept many aspects of education reform as priorities and find a way to get them in place, said board member and Connecticut Business and Industry Association President John R. Rathgeber.
One of those priorities should be universal access to prekindergarten education, he said. The council did not initially have the topic on their agenda, but as they held hearings in cities and towns across the state, it became evident it was important, he said.
In addition to funding, the state lacks the infrastructure accommodate more pre-K education. That necessitates building adequate facilities and getting more people trained to do the job, he said.
“There are resources available and I think over time we’re just going to have to say this is a priority for the state of Connecticut recognizing the fact that if we don’t do it we’re going to have more dropouts we’re going to have more incarcerations and more issues that are going to cost a lot of money,” he said.
Some funding for reform could come from reallocating money already being spent on education, said board member and retired Chairman of The Hartford Ramani Ayer.
“It is so important that we recognize that we are in this state spending a lot of money on education also, spending a significant amount of money on discretionary grants around the state. We need to take a step back and take a look at what’s working and what’s not working,” he said.
Rathgeber said the city of Hartford recently showed a great example of how to successfully reallocate funds by shifting money out of its central office and into the classrooms.
Patterson said the council will continue to work to get its recommendations implemented by publicizing the achievement gap regularly and show its negative effect the state. They will also work with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and lawmakers to change policies, she said.
She pointed out that Malloy has already stated the next legislative session should focus on education reform.
“The winds of change are going in our direction and we intend to act on that,” she said.
In the United States the recession officially ended two years ago, but in much of the country housing prices are still falling, jobs are hard to come by and growth remains weak.
A low growth rate is much more than just a number. Economists say that over time weak growth can have an insidious effect on a country's prospects and options in ways not everyone appreciates.
This was supposed to be the year the U.S. economy finally gained traction. Instead, it looks more and more like it's stuck in the mud, says former Federal Reserve member Alan Blinder.
"The economy has been disappointing on the low side consistently for several months now and that makes me and other people worry that maybe this slow growth will linger longer than we now think," he says.
During the first three months of the year, the U.S. economy grew by just 1.9 percent while China grew 9.7 percent. Lakshman Achuthan of the Economic Cycle Research Institute says the weak U.S. growth rate is part of a disturbing pattern.
"Ever since the mid-1970s the pace of expansion has been stairstepping down in every expansion so that the last expansion was the weakest expansion on record on every count, including GDP and jobs," he says.
Achuthan says it's not clear why this is happening. It might be demographics, or globalization, or simply an inevitable fact of life for a mature economy.
Harder For Companies To Grow
But the implications of the weak growth rate are profound. For one thing, it means U.S. companies have fewer opportunities to grow.
Wisconsin-based Husco International, which makes components for hydraulic equipment, has had a rough past few years because many of its customers are in the construction business, says CEO Austin Ramirez.
"It's hard to be optimistic, overly optimistic, about the market," he says. "We'll figure it out and we'll get things under control, and the U.S. housing market will recover. Am I optimistic it's going to happen in the next three months as opposed to the next 18 months? I don't know."
But Husco is doing well in part because it has sought business in emerging markets where growth is much stronger.
"They're just building a lot of infrastructure. You know China is investing a huge amount of infrastructure into roads and bridges and railroads, and to do that they need hydraulic components — same story in India," Ramirez says.
When U.S. companies face weaker growth they do less hiring, which means unemployment is higher. Blinder says a 2 percent growth rate wouldn't matter much if the nation had a healthy job market.
"But when you have a 9 percent unemployment that means you're sitting at the bottom of a deep hole and you need to climb out," he says. "Two percent is not climbing out at all. In fact, 2 percent is burrowing in slightly deeper."
And Blinder says the slow pace of hiring is especially hard on young people trying to enter the workforce.
Difficult For Governments To Repair Finances
Richard White, who heads the Rutgers University career office, says the job market for graduating students is more challenging than it was a few years ago.
"Obviously a higher growth rate means more jobs, more choices, more offers," he says.
White says students graduating right now sometimes have to accept lower salaries and less attractive jobs than they used to. And over time they pay a price for that.
"If you look over the long haul, starting behind — particularly in an economy that is growing much more slowly than we all would hope — they may not catch up over time," he says.
Slow growth also makes it much harder for cities and states to repair their finances. Not only does the cost of safety-net programs stay high, but tax revenues stay low.
"You have high unemployment, you pay out high unemployment benefits, Medicaid benefits go up, food stamps benefits go up and, much more importantly, tax receipts go down," Blinder says.
But none of this is forever. Achuthan says even with moderate growth the U.S. economy will recover eventually, if given enough time. In the 1990s growth wasn't especially strong, he says, but the expansion lasted a long time, and that eventually brought unemployment down to near-record lows. He says the same thing could happen now.
"Two percent's not bad if you can get 10 years of it," he says. "It's really bad if you only get a couple years of it, and that's the challenge here."
But to achieve that kind of stable, long-term growth means avoiding any further recessions. And that won't be easy. In the meantime, a public that's lived through the booms and busts of the past two decades may have to learn to live with diminished expectations.
While the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program was delayed – we do have GOOD NEWS that state officials have confirmed the funds for this program and it will be kept intact.
We are grateful to the State of Connecticut, the City of Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and to other leveraged funders that support this very important initiative.
Nearly 2,000, 14 – 19 year olds throughout the North Central Connecticut region have been assigned to work using State and leveraged funds, to build their career competencies and to engage in paid work experiences at hundreds of private sector businesses and non-profit organizations throughout the region.
This should be a great summer for these summer interns, and the businesses that will benefit.
Please visit: www.capitalworkforce.org for updates.
June 30, 2011
For More Information Contact:
NSC, SFA, NFWS, CVWF Announce Business Leaders United at Clinton Global Initiative America Meeting
With Local Skills Shortages Stalling Economic Recovery, Employers will Help Shape National Skills Strategy
Chicago, IL – This morning, at CGI America, a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), 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, 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.
NSC’s executive director Andy Van Kleunen announced the Commitment to Action on behalf of the four organizations during the event’s workforce development session. CGI Commitments to Action are new, specific, and measurable plans to address job creation challenges in the U.S. Business Leaders United was one of several Commitments to Action announced during President Clinton’s convening of business, government, and civic leaders to focus on economic recovery and job growth.
The Joyce Foundation announced today that it will be the first member of the philanthropic community to invest in the Business Leaders United Commitment to Action.
“Job creation and job training strategies must go hand in hand,” said Joyce Foundation President Ellen S. Alberding. “That won’t happen unless business leaders are at the table shaping workforce policy. Business Leaders United has identified concrete measurable goals to help ensure public workforce training investments are targeted at the jobs that will be part of our post-recession economy.
Industry partnerships are a specific workforce training model led by local employers in collaboration with colleges, community organizations, public workforce boards, and unions. This model has compiled a track record of success. Business Leaders United will:
Employer partners from the national organizations spearheading Business Leaders United are applauding the announcement of the Commitment to Action.
“We need to make sure America has a 21st century workforce that is equipped with the training and capabilities necessary to be successful, to get ahead, and to drive a competitive economy in the challenges of a global marketplace,” said Eva Sage-Gavin, Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources and Corporate Affairs for Gap, Inc. and an Advisory Board Member of Skills for America’s Future, which seeks to promote partnerships between community colleges and businesses. “Business Leaders United will bring essential voices to the table to ensure we can grow the skilled workforce of the future today.”
“Those of us who work in industry partnerships understand the power they generate, particularly for small and mid-sized employers, to address local skill needs,” said Michael Mandina of Optimax Systems, Inc. in Ontario, New York and a member of National Skills Coalition’s employer network. “We need to have a national policy conversation about how to better support this proven strategy and close local skill gaps. I look forward to working with Business Leaders United to shape that conversation.”
Supporting industry partnerships through public policy will help address the skill shortages that are putting the brakes on economic recovery.
"In order to better realize long-term economic recovery, we need to close the gap between untapped talent and entry level workforce needs,” said Patrick Flavin, AVP Director of Workforce Initiatives for The TJX Companies, Inc. and a member of the Corporate Voices for Working Families network.
“Investing in our workforce is a ‘win’ for our company and a ‘win’ for our community,” said Pete Strange, CEO of Messer Construction and a member of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions network. “The future competitiveness of our company depends on our ability to attract and develop talent. And the future vitality of our community depends on our collective ability to grow the skills of our workforce so people can obtain gainful employment.”
About the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and CGI America
CGI America is a new Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) event focused on developing ideas for fostering economic recovery in the U.S. Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, CGI convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together nearly 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made nearly 2,000 commitments, which have already improved the lives of 300 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued in excess of $63 billion. The 2011 Annual Meeting will take place Sept. 19-22 in New York City. The CGI community also includes CGI U, which hosts an annual meeting for undergraduate and graduate students, and CGI Lead, which engages a select group of young CGI members for leadership development and collective commitment-making.
Martin Neil Baily, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies
Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director, Metropolitan Policy Program
Darrell M. West, Vice President and Director, Governance Studies
The Brookings Institution Download Full Paper (PDF)
May 2011 —History has amply demonstrated that innovation in the public and private sectors is the most important key to long-term U.S. prosperity and economic competitiveness. Yet in the United States today, innovation is at risk of stalling just at a time when rising international competition is on the upswing and the U.S. economy is still reeling from a deep recession.
Priorities for action start with turning three deficits—budget, investment/savings and trade—into surpluses.
This will require action by the public sector—to provide tax credits for innovation and more forward-thinking trade policies, for example—and the private sector, including businesses, universities and private research firms that reward education and job skills.
To achieve solid, sustainable economic growth, government agencies at all levels must integrate and coordinate their activities with each other and with the private sector, rowers pulling in the same direction in a sea of economic uncertainty.
May 18, 2011 —
The current economic climate has placed renewed priority on the performance and potential of community colleges, the primary postsecondary institution serving local and regional workforce needs. These institutions are critically important to individuals seeking higher skills and to employers looking for qualified workers. States that fail to align their community college goals with economic development efforts to address their human capital challenges run the risk of losing out in the competition for good jobs and sustainable development.
However, states that maximize their return on every public investment dollar to prepare for long-term economic growth can use the current moment to their advantage. By championing an integrated workforce and economic development strategy based on improving student success in community colleges and promoting regional progress through partnerships, they can ensure a stable supply of skilled workers for area employers. To that end, states should embrace the following agenda:
April 26 - 29, 2011 - A week with a local, state and federal focus on Workforce Development - We assembled in North Central Connecticut for a 2011 Board Meeting of theU.S. Conference of Mayors - Workforce Development Council. From around the country, attendees came to share and learn. We left with a sharpened perspective, priority and understanding of adult and youth workforce development including challenges, economic and social benefits, best practices, policies, budget crises and innovation.
The sessions were substantial, and the event was designed for the group to begin more nationally coordinated and refined strategies. Highlights:
- Improving Adult Education and Literacy Services: What Approaches are Effective in Work-Related Basic Education Skills.
- Improving Adult Education and Literacy Services: Strengthening Linkages Between Workforce Investment Boards ("WIBs"), Adult Education and Community Colleges.
- Lessons Learned Nationally from Connecticut Regarding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Temporary Aid to Needy Families - Emergency Contingency Fund (ARRA TANF-ECF Program - PDF)
- How the TANF and WIA systems partnered to make subsidized employment work for both businesses and job seekers.
- Jobs and Economic Security: A Blueprint for Developing a Thriving Economy in Connecticut.
April 28 , 2011 - Senator Blumenthal Meets with Employers, Youth, Job Seekers at CTWorks in Hartford - After a roundtable filled with information about the workforce system, personal stories of area businesses, job seekers and youth from Hartford's Law and Government Academy, Senator Blumenthal posed for a photo: (l-r) Alex Johnson, COO - Capital Workforce Partners; U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal; Wally Barnes, CETC Chair; Charles Smith, Chair of the Capital Workforce Partners Board. CT Department of Labor Commissioner, Glenn Marshall and Deputy Commissioner Dennis Murphy also welcomed the Senator to the CTWorks One-Stop. See the photo journal.
Audio Update: Closing Out the FY 2011 Budget Process and Looking Ahead to the FY 2012 Budget Fight
Join National Skills Coalition on Thursday, May 5 at 1:00 pm ET for the latest federal budget news as we close out the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations process and look ahead to FY 2012. In part one of the update, NSC's Federal Policy Team will provide an overview and analysis of the recently-passed Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 continuing resolution (CR), which funds the federal government through September 30 and includes more than $1 billion in cuts to key job training and education programs under the Departments of Labor and Education. In the second half of the call, the focus will shift to the upcoming FY 2012 budget debate—what is being proposed by Congress and the Administration, what does it all mean, and most importantly how will it impact vital workforce programs.
Spring into Summer Jobs (Part 1 of 3): The Past Decade’s Downward Slide
Think back with me for a moment. What were some of your main activities in the month of June when you were between the ages of 16 and 19? Hanging out with friends? A day at the amusement park? The movies or arcade? The swimming pool? Getting some pizza, ice cream, or French fries at the mall? Social and recreational activities are a key part of summer life in the late teenage years. And that’s great.
But did you have a summer job that helped pay for all these things or other personal, educational, or family expenses?
When I was 19, in between play rehearsals and set building for the local youth-for-youth theater company my friends and I founded (the group is still going strong, by the way), I worked as a short-order cook at the café in the local Target store. My older sister worked for Pizza Hut, and my young sister worked for MacDonald’s. We had the local fast food industry sewn up. My earnings helped defray costs for my second year of college. My younger sister was able to pay for car-related expenses. And my older sister (who has significant disabilities) earned money to supplement her Social Security benefits and pay for basic living costs. At the same time, we were all building important work history and developing transferrable skills essential to our future success in the workplace.
That was only 15 years ago. Not so long in terms of years, but it was a whole world away from our current summer job market. In June 1996 (when I was 19), 49% of 16- to 19-year-olds were employed. Today, the numbers are starkly different. According to a report by Andrew Sum and his colleagues at the Center for Labor Market Studies (CLMS) at Northeastern University, in June 2010, fewer than 29% of 16- to 19-year-olds were employed. And it doesn’t look like we have a significant increase in store for us this year.