Vice President Biden Leads Initiative On Job-Training Programs

September 8, 2014 6:00 AM

Photo Credit JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Photo Credit JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Photo Credit JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

More than three million job openings in the U.S. go unfilled for months, according to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The Jobs Council, a group of American business leaders led by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, convened in January 2011 to tackle the nation’s unemployment problem from a business perspective. A year later, the Council reported to the President that about half the employers they surveyed claim they have difficulty finding qualified workers to fill job vacancies. The problem is greatest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The Jobs Council’s report came with several recommendations, including a call to better align student and worker training with the demands of the job market. While the Jobs Council’s charter expired in 2013, their recommendations continue to guide the President. In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced he was tapping Vice President Joe Biden to lead up a review of federal job training and apprenticeship programs to ensure the training is “job-driven.” July 2014, Biden, working with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, labor Secretary Tom Perez and other cabinet members, issued the report “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity.”

According to Biden’s report, three problems were consistently cited by stakeholders. Employers are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, education and training program developers are unsure which skills are in-demand, and job seekers don’t know what training they need to find a job in the current economy.

To address these problems, the DOL and Department of Education (ED) are teaming up with businesses and educational institutions to connect training programs with employers and job seekers with training programs. More than 45 unions and labor-management partnerships, representing nearly 8,000 businesses, have committed to expanding training opportunities. These opportunities are spread across the healthcare, construction, transportation and manufacturing industries.

Burning Glass technologies has pledged to provide data and analytics to help employers develop career pathway roadmaps. These roadmaps will illustrate the paths an entry-level worker may take to move into higher-paying positions. The maps will indicate the level of demand for each position and the required skills, training and credentials. These maps will inform training programs and job seekers so they are better able to fill the skills gap identified by the Jobs Council in its 2012 report to the President. 

The Biden report gave this example of a career pathway: A retail sales associate earning $10.15 an hour could follow a career path leading to a $19.93 per-hour retail supervisor position, then progress to a customer service manager job earning $25.81 per hour. The career map indicates that all three of these positions are in high demand, giving a low-wage worker the opportunity to move up this career ladder.

Biden’s group consulted employers, education leaders, members of Congress, state and local officials, job seekers and students; they reviewed job training programs and union apprenticeship programs to see what was working and produced the report “What Works in Job Training: A Synthesis of the Evidence.” From this report, Biden’s group developed the Job-Driven Checklist, a list of seven qualities deemed essential to an effective job-training program.

Over the next year, federal agencies will incorporate these Job-Driven Checklist items into their programs:

  1. Coordinate training with employers
  2. offer on-the job training, internships and apprenticeships;
  3. make better use of data to determine local job demand and make this information available to job-seekers;
  4. measure employment and earnings outcomes;
  5. provide smooth progression through the training program;
  6. provide trainees with support such as transportation, childcare and accommodations for the disabled;
  7. coordinate with other training programs and economic development agencies.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will provide training to state and local TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program directors on how to improve their effectiveness in moving needy children and families into better economic situations. The “Systems to Family Stability” academy will train directors to utilize the Job-Driven checklist to engage with employers and integrate clients’ training, education and employment. Vocational rehabilitation and tribal agencies will also receive training in use of the Checklist.

Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.