Federal jobs bill offers K-12 partnership grants

Federal jobs bill offers K-12 partnership grants

(Ohio) A visit to a Toledo high school this week by two of President Barack Obama’s senior cabinet officials highlighted the type of successful job-training programs envisioned under new federal law.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez stopped yesterday at Toledo Technology Academy, recently awarded $3.8 million through the Youth CareerConnect grant program – a collaborative effort between the Education and Labor departments meant to increase partnerships between Toledo Public Schools and area employers.

The president signed legislation earlier this month aimed at closing the “skills gap” by providing opportunities for training partnerships between schools and industry, as well as for the long-term unemployed to participate in federal jobs programs. The $3 billion program funds state and local workforce initiatives and provides a comprehensive menu of job training services for adults and youth.

Technically a re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act – a Clinton-era law that gave money to cities and states for job retraining – the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act purportedly eliminates some of the reporting and compliance elements that previously created overlap and bureaucracy.

 “With too many Americans still unable to find work, we must do all that we can to ensure that our workers are qualified to fill available jobs,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat whose own job-training legislation was used as a model for parts of the new law, said in a statement.

Included in the reauthorized law are provisions from Brown's 2013 Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act, intended to promote and require sector-based partnerships to ensure that workforce training programs are developed with industry input and tailored to meet companies' workforce needs.

According to Brown’s statement, a recent report found that between 2008 and 2018, Ohio will create 967,000 job openings requiring postsecondary education or training. Ohio, in fact, ranks 10th with the biggest looming skilled labor shortage in the country. By tailoring workforce development to the needs of regional, high-growth industries, more workers could receive placements and more businesses could be attracted to a region based on a “clusters” approach, the Senator said.

Both the SECTORS Act and the Workforce Innovation Act:

  • Ensure industry stakeholders and business representatives participate in devising and implementing workforce training programs;
  • Require State Workforce Investment Boards to develop strategies that meet the needs of employers through industry or sector partnerships related to in-demand industry sectors and occupations;
  • Require local employment and training activities to develop, convene, or implement industry or sector partnerships;
  • Provides grant opportunities to encourage K-12 and postsecondary school-employer partnerships that prepare students for regional industry jobs, and
  • Expands the definition of out-of-school youth to encompass young people ages 16 to 24 who are not attending school, have dropped out of school and face extensive barriers to work and to completing their education, and targets 75 percent of Title I youth funds to provide services for out-of-school youth.

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