Long-term Unemployed Get Glimmer of Benefit Relief

The lifeline that many in the White House hoped would be forthcoming for the 1.3 million Americans who lost their Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits on December 28, 2013 (which KRA Corporation highlighted in a recent blog post), emerged yesterday.

In a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the Senate agreed by a vote of 60-37 to proceed with an action that would temporarily reinstate benefits for the long-term unemployed for another 3 months.

Tom Perez, the Department of Labor Secretary, was congratulatory of the move saying in a statement that, “Today’s Senate vote was the right thing to do – an important step toward providing critical relief to families in economic distress. And it was also the smart thing to do – because these benefits would provide an economic stimulus by putting more money in the pockets of working families.”

While originally looking as though the necessary 60 votes were not going to be reached, in addition to Heller and Reed, , five other Republicans—Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dan Coats (R-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Rob Portman (R-OH)—voted in favor to move the bill forward for bipartisan consideration in the House.

This was an important step toward reinstating the much-needed relief for those who lost jobs “through no fault of their own”, but still face some opposition in the House where Republicans might still stop the bill’s passage based on the grounds that there are no budgetary spending cuts that match the projected $6.5 billion it will cost.

House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), as part of statement after the vote, pointed to why it might find resistance stipulating, “One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the President has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America’s unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job.”

Other opposition to the extension is also rooted in the belief that these benefits act as a means of slowing or stopping recipients from reentering the workforce. However, a White House report argues that removing these benefits would negatively impact existing jobs and employment in the U.S. states with lack of spending resulting in job cuts in states’ local businesses.

KRA Corporation is heartened by the actions of the Senate and remains hopeful that this benefit is reinstated to aid those unemployed jobseekers in weathering the economic climate while also bolstering the economy by helping businesses to retain employees.

As an organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and strengthening the communities in which we live, KRA Corporation looks forward to continuing our work in supporting the mission of federal, state, and local agencies to prepare job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.




Shrinking Federal Workforce Looks Set to Continue Downsize

KRA Corporation looks at some of the figures and factors that predominate the size and earning capabilities of Federal employees as 2014 unfolds.

As the White House continues to employ measures aimed at creating jobs and growing the middle class, there is a movement toward shrinking their own ranks from within. According to a Government Executive article, the Federal Government lost a further 7,000 jobs in November—which is on top of the additional 18,000 positions that closed in September and October combined.

It seems that this downward trend in employment within the government is calculated. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that some 92,000 Federal jobs were shed over the course of the last year with buyouts, hiring freezes, and retirement being some of the factors that have chiseled the number of jobs within the Federal government.

The core of this move to shrinking the number of government positions seems to be part of the budget balancing efforts, with the initiatives in the fiscal 2014 budget projected to diminish the government employment figures a further 3.6%.

It seems that attrition will be another contributor to a diminishing Federal workforce, with those positions made available by retiring employees apparently not being filled—a measure that is expected to cut the Federal employee roll by up to 10% by 2015.

Additionally, lawmakers are looking to reform compensation offered by the Federal government to its employees. In attempting to have Federal employees contribute to their pensions (coupled with benefits and pay changes) to be on par with the private sector, the House Budget Committee expects to trim an estimated $132 billion.

One of the factors that fuels the debate over cutting compensation is the average earnings between the public and private sector. Numbers and reports used to refute or corroborate reasoning seem to vary, however.  A Huffington Post article suggests that it might be as much as a quarter less from public to private in similar positions while a 2012 Congressional Budget Office report suggests that public-sector employees earn 16% more in total compensation.

As an organization dedicated to preparing job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and supplying employers with a trained and reliable workforce, KRA Corporation empathizes with those unemployed Federal employees and hopes for their speedy reintegration into the workforce.

In our efforts to improve the lives of individuals and strengthen the communities in which we live, KRA Corporation will continue to support the mission of Federal, state, and local agencies by servicing the needs of all those seeking employment through our innovative and comprehensive One-Stop Career Center Operations for WIA-eligible Adults, Dislocated Workers, and Youth and TANF Employment Services, regardless of political or economic environment. 


WIA Reauthorization and the End of 2013

KRA Corporation examines where the Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization stands as this year draws to a close.

With questions circulating about the future of important federally-funded programs, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and its pending reauthorization should receive some special mention. Since it was last revisited in 2003, the failure to reauthorize P.L.105-220 has claimed some invaluable funding streams for workforce development programs.  

It has not all been “can kicking” down the aisle. There have been reformation and reauthorization efforts on both sides of the political equation in recent years. This year, the Senate approved S. 1356 and the House passed H.R. 803, both of which offered potential alternatives to the current incarnation of the now-annually appropriated system. 

As reported in the Congressional Research Service in a comparison of the current law and the marked up version of S. 1356 , some of the major changes include: “the adoption of primary indicators of performance across all WIA titles, the requirement of a Unified State Plan that includes all core programs, the authorization of innovation and replication grants, greater emphasis on economic and employment outcomes for adult education programs, and expanded services for youth and students with disabilities.”

The same service reported that H.R. 803 would “maintain the One-Stop delivery system established by WIA but would repeal numerous programs authorized by WIA and other federal legislation, and it would consolidate other programs into a new single funding source—the Workforce Investment Fund. Adult Education and Vocational Rehabilitation retain separate titles and funding in H.R. 803.”

It is evident that there are some considerable differences in the WIA Reauthorization efforts—which the National Association of Regional Councils compiled a side-by-side comparison of—with the major difference existing within the states’ roles in fund management.  

The House version overhauls the system to decentralize the funding with states being given more autonomy to spend as they see fit in, while the Senate’s more or less maintains the status quo, requiring a submission of a state unified plan to the federal government.

As in previous attempts at WIA reauthorization, this current iteration has failed to produce a shift in policy. Despite a report being ordered on July 31, 2013 report, S. 1356 is still awaiting full Senate consideration and H.R 803 has lain dormant since it was passed in the House of Representatives on March 15, 2013.

As 2013 draws to a close, we at KRA Corporation remain confident that the current initiatives and recent Federal programmatic additions aimed at arming the U.S. workforce with the 21st-Century skills to be globally competitive and bolstering the economy will serve as the impetus for a bi-partisan push for WIA reauthorization in the near future.

Additionally, KRA Corporation looks forward to lending our legislative support and extensive programmatic experience to making the eventual process a fruitful and successful venture.




Emergency Unemployment Compensation Benefits Program Set to Expire

Today seems set to be the day that millions of unemployed Americans will receive their final Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefit payment. The extension of these federally-funded unemployment benefits that is currently being offered to some 1.6 million jobless Americans is set to expire on December 31, 2013 with no phase-out period.

Congress has the capability and the authority to extend the deadline on those benefits (the parameters and proposed congressional amendments of which are outlined in this report by the Congressional Research Service).

However, the current bipartisan budget deal presented by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., does not contain any provision that could push that expiration forward, or set a new date.

The lack of any mention for extending the funding program in the proposed budget does not bode well for the EUC. Something the italicized “if” (in the statement “If the EUC program is extended by the U.S. Congress, benefits will be paid at that time if all other requirements of the law have been met”) on the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation website would seem to tacitly acknowledge.

So, despite efforts by the White House, Democrats and some moderate Republicans, it seems that time—and energy—might run out on the effort to extend the additional emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for those unemployed Americans who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits.

But, as grave as the situation is for the 1.6 million recipients affected by the recent budget considerations (and who will be cut off on in late December), it also stands to impact a significant number of people beyond when an additional almost 4 million people will lose UI benefits in the first half of the new year.

Sadly, as of a November State of Working America report, there is still almost a 3-1 seeker-to-available job ratio in the U.S.—a statistic that KRA Corporationconsistently and actively attempts to influence positively through the operation of  WIA-funded One-Stop Career Centers for Adult, Dislocated, and Youth jobseekers, as well as several types of TANF-funded Work Participation, Placement, and Support Services Programs for recipients of public assistance. 

KRA Corporation will continue to advocate for programs that are dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and strengthening the communities in which we live, remains hopeful that the prevailing economic situation will sway lawmakers to revisit the much-needed EUC benefit for our long-term unemployed jobseekers.




Apprenticeship Model Gains Traction but Barriers Remain

KRA Corporation has followed the increased attention that apprenticeship is receiving in the effort to revitalize workforce initiatives for youth and we look at some of the barriers it faces.

There has been a fair amount of buzz recently around the advantages of adopting the apprenticeship model as a solution to the burgeoning unemployment figures among U.S. youth.

It does have one major fan in its corner—President Barack Obama—who believes: “an economy built to last demands that we keep doing everything we can to help students learn the skills that businesses are looking for.” His commitment to that belief in the apprenticeship model was very clearly demonstrated with his Youth CareerConnect grant program.

With a widening skills gap threatening companies that need skilled labor if the re-emerging manufacturing sector is to blossom, it seems like a fairly simple (and successfully proven) solution to harness or create those skills from an early age—something that KRA Corporation fully appreciates and seeks to promote through its successful WIA Youth Services Programs.

However, the earn-as-you-learn model continues—as it has for quite some time—to be a sticky one for many different factions directly involved in the process, as well as those that are affected by it. For some it is viewed with skepticism, and for others flat-out scorn.

It doesn’t help that there seems to be a stigma attached to the vocational education system.  And it is a stigma that directly impacts those that it is targeting—the youth.  Despite it being outdated with the skills required to perform these jobs becoming increasingly more technical, the belief that this is the purview of the under-educated still abounds. It is a sentiment that is eroding (according to this Reading Eagle article) but still clings to life.

Along those same lines, part of the battle is the culture of the natural (and aspirational) progression of education which dictates students finish high school, go to college, and then find a befitting job. It is still espoused that those who couldn’t quite make the grade (or get the grades) where the group who took the other route—setting up the two-tier mentality.

From an employment point of view, the detraction is that it is a dead-end proposition with no room for further education while removing any opportunity for upward mobility or prospects for alternate employment if the industry down-turned.

It also requires buy-in from the companies themselves, many of whom have neither the resources nor the inclination to take the training upon themselves. Some organizations feel that this responsibility to provide trained workers is someone else’s responsibility.

Ineffective implementation efforts or protocols, initial capital inputs, and overall lack of understanding of the process when attempting it slow it down and with minimal returns that seem to reinforce those misconceptions, it is deemed an unsustainable model.

One hurdle, a New York Times article reporting  on new apprenticeship models, based on German school-to-industry partnership models that are being adopted in South Carolina, is that companies see apprenticeships as gateways to unions.

Perhaps it could be as simple as the parochial U.S. mindset that “our way is better” or “this isn’t our system, it’s what they do in Europe” and it is this way of thinking that needs to change.

KRA Corporation applauds any effort that moves the development needle that impacts our youth—a core component of the modern U.S. workforce. We remain committed to ensuring the success of the WIA Youth Services and Workforce Investment Board system and are hopeful that future models related to workforce development initiatives for youth will continue to help the cause.


Sector-driven Workforce Development…Is it Working?—Part 2

KRA Corporation continues this short series, looking at sector-based employment and training as a much-needed approach for some local workforce and economic development systems…

A few weeks ago, it was reported here that 10 years ago, the Bush administration laid out a “groundbreaking approach for closing employment skills gaps”—the High Growth Job Training Initiative (HGJTI) aimed at equipping workers with the technical skills they need to be successful in the workforce.  The full article can be viewed here.

The Department of Labor (DOL), through the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Women’s Bureau, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), have all contributed significantly to DOL’s intent “to invest in national models and demonstrations of workforce solutions in these [14 HGJTI] sectors.”  Many of these models and demonstrations were funded through grant programs.

Activities conducted as part of the HGJTI focused on the distribution of products and lessons-learned resulting from grants to Community Based Organizations (CBO)/ other non-profit organizations, community colleges/other institutions of higher education, Workforce Investment Boards (WIB), State and local government agencies, and other eligible workforce investment system stakeholders.

Some of the grants with HGJTI goals and objectives included the following:

  • Older Worker Demonstration Grants addressed the workforce challenges facing older individuals by providing training and related services for individuals age 55 and older that result in employment and advancement opportunities in high-growth industries and economic sectors.
  • Community-Based Job Training Grants supported workforce training for high-growth industries through the national system of community and technical colleges through funds awarded to individual community and technical colleges, community college districts, state community college systems, and One-Stop Career Centers.
  • YouthBuild Grants provided disadvantaged, low-income youth with education and employment skills necessary to achieve economic self-sufficiency in occupations in high demand, including opportunities for education and training, for meaningful work, and developing employment and leadership skills.
  • Technology-Based Learning Initiative Grants expanded access to training resulting in an increased number of workers trained, particularly in high-growth, high-demand occupations, and to meet the needs of industry for skilled employees.  These grants were designed to expand the vital role of TBL in helping workers quickly acquire the training and skills they need to be successful in today’s global economy.
  •  Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations Grants conducted innovative projects to improve the recruitment, selection, training, employment, and retention of women in apprenticeships in the construction industry through three RAP (Registered  Apprenticeship Program)/CBO consortia, each consisting of a minimum of: (1) a construction industry RAP sponsor; and (2) a CBO with demonstrated experience in  job-training services that included hard- and soft-skill development and job-placement and support to women for construction industry jobs.
  • High-Growth Job Training Initiative for the Energy Industry/Construction and Skilled Trades in the Energy Industry Grants for high-impact regional approaches to meet the workforce challenges of the energy industry and/or address the shortage of construction and skilled trade workers needed to maintain and expand the energy industry infrastructure.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Opportunities in the Workforce System Initiative Grants expanded and aligned current and new STEM workforce education and training strategies, activities, and resources in One Stop Career Centers to promote, attract, and prepare disadvantaged youth and dislocated workers for STEM careers, while simultaneously enhancing the competitive position of local and regional employers., which continues to gained momentum
  • Health Profession Opportunity Grants, established by The Affordable Care Act of 2010 and funded by the DHHS, provided for training programs in high-demand health care professions to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients and other low-income individuals.

The next article in this series will explore the DOL/WIA- and DHHS/TANF-funded programs, including those operated by KRA Corporation, that provide targeted education and training opportunities available to prepare jobseeker-customers for employment in those industries identified locally as high-growth employment business sectors.

KRA Corporation leverages its 30+ years’ experience in program development, management, and operation to assist our employer-customers in high-growth sectors, while still ensuring that all jobseeker-customers are equitably served according to their individual needs.  In this way, we continue to prepare job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and to supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.

Youth CareerConnect Grants Give Skills Initiative Additional Boost

The Obama administration has taken another step toward making good on its promise to help better prepare students entering the workforce, as well as ensuring that the U.S workforce can compete globally, by announcing $100 million dollars to fund Youth CareerConnect  Grants.

This competitive grant—using money from the H1-B visa program—offers awards of between $2-$7 million for 25-40 education agencies, public or non-profit local workforce entities, or non-profits with education reform experience involved in individual or multi-site projects.

It is reassuring that the commitments made are being honored by lawmakers, and KRA Corporation applauds the continued investment in the upcoming generation of young workers, as well as providing a viable platform for forward-thinking solutions to workforce development.

As an organization that pioneered the YES (Youth Employability & Success) Program as part of its comprehensive WIA Youth Services operations, KRA Corporation advocates for any program that will provide relevant education, training, and work-readiness programs for the at-risk youth population benefitting the individual, businesses, and overall economic growth.

An increasing number of high school students lack exposure to meaningful links between secondary and postsecondary education or available career paths. This new initiative is modeled after career and technical education programs (like P-TECH) whose programs are operated in collaboration with corporations, folding in certifications (in the form of Associates Degrees) with basic requirements for entry-level employment within the sponsoring corporation.

According to the DOLETA fact sheet, this program is designed to increase the flow of prepared workers into the system through five combined principles: Integrated Academic and Career-Focused Learning, Work-Based Learning and Exposure to the World of Work, Robust Employer Engagement, Individualized Career and Academic Counseling and Integration of Post-secondary Education and Training.

According to Politico, the program has received a frosty reception from some education groups who have concerns about the limiting scope that the competitive nature of the granting process will have on schools. The inaccessibility by some rural schools that do not have grant writers nor some of the basic criteria for eligibility due to location and size was another sticking point.

It has also drawn criticism from inside the government for bypassing support from associated lawmakers, and its seemingly direct competition with the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program (which is up for reauthorization), thereby adding a different and potentially confusing level to the system.

KRA Corporation understands that bringing projects to the scale of magnitude that this program requires to be deemed successful is a difficult proposition. However, we remain optimistic that these grants could represent a necessary step toward youth employment and global competitiveness, as well as a boost for the economy in the future.