Many of us in the community development field are concerned about the persistently high rate of unemployment during the recession. The bleak employment prospects for less educated populations, males, and members of racial and ethnic minorities are distressing and worrisome.
We’ve started to explore workforce development issues and challenges at the Philadelphia Fed and other Reserve Banks. There’s a mixed record of success in this field; therefore, we’ve set out to understand which approaches are successful. One impressive model is the 37-year-old partnership that exists between the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund (Training Fund) and 52 health-care employers in the Philadelphia area. The Training Fund works closely with employers to understand their staffing and training needs and develop programs accordingly. It provides a wide range of services at one location by blending many government and philanthropic programs and funding streams. It serves both employed and unemployed workers, and union members as well as nonmember community residents.
In addition, Jane Oates, assistant secretary of the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, gives us a valuable federal perspective and discusses successful earn-while-you-learn models such as on-the-job training (OJT) and registered apprenticeships. With OJT, employers can attract and retain employees who can assist their businesses, and in return, employees gain valuable work experience. The U.S. Department of Labor also provides a helpful road map into how the public workforce development system is organized.
In another article, Neeta P. Fogg and Paul E. Harrington, both with Drexel University’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy, discuss the collapse of the labor market for young people between the ages of 16 and 24. They describe a growing urban issue of disconnection of teens from the job market and indicate that pathways need to be rebuilt from high schools to employers, who look for occupational and behavioral traits as well as academic skills.
Meanwhile, Marty Smith reports on a study that found that average wages and salaries for young women and men who enroll in community colleges and who earned associate’s degrees are substantially higher than those of their peers whose education did not extend beyond high school. The study notes that the most substantial earnings benefits associated with community college education and postsecondary education in general accrue to women.
Additionally, readers can learn more through a useful resource list of research studies, articles, and tools on workforce development issues concerning high schools, community colleges, and disadvantaged populations. It includes some of the latest research studies in the field.
We will continue to examine workforce development issues, particularly in our Federal Reserve District, and welcome your comments and reactions to this edition.