Does Federal Job Training Funding Work? DOL Needs More Data

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By Tyrone Richardson

Are federal dollars well spent on Job Corps and other training programs? The Labor Department needs to sharpen its data to help answer that question, training advocates told a House appropriations subcommittee April 4.

The suggestion comes as lawmakers are reviewing such programs amid the Trump administration’s proposal for budget cuts. Lawmakers are also seeking ways to help bridge skills gaps and respond to the needs of the nation’s evolving workforce.

The suggestion for stronger DOL data isn’t new, but it could be more important as the Trump administration calls for belt-tightening.

Allocating funding and gauging existing programs requires “greater need for labor data” and “good labor skills data,” Zoë Baird, CEO and president of the Markle Foundation, told the lawmakers.

The DOL is attempting to improve data collection in existing programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which sets data standards to gauge performance.

Democrats Voice Concern About Budget Cuts

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) insisted during the hearing that many existing workforce development programs and related support services should remain intact.

“This subcommittee can accept these cuts or not, but the testimony we are hearing really demonstrates that the budget we are seeing, at least in the skinny budget, is really going to take us in the wrong direction if we are concerned about vocational training, job training and helping people lift themselves out of poverty and into the middle class,” she said.

Subcommittee chairman Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) cautioned the panel that proposed cuts aren’t final.

“I don’t think President Obama’s budget proposal ever got a single favorable vote on the floor,” he said. “I suspect a proposal is a long way from reality, but we will see because we are still into that process.”

Funding, Calls for More Job Training

The April 4 subcommittee hearing came the same day the DOL announced the availability of $5.7 million in grants to aid its Workforce Data Quality Initiative. The initiative is intended to promote market-relevant education and workforce data on the state level.

The hearing also came the day the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, spoke about the need for more apprenticeship programs during a CEO town hall meeting at the White House.

The importance of such programs has peppered conversations among policymakers and company executives in Washington in recent weeks. DOL secretary-designate Alexander Acosta touted the importance of job training programs during his Senate confirmation hearing in March.

Speakers Suggest Focus on Apprenticeships

Job training advocates gave the subcommittee a list of suggestions of what programs they believe are effective for job training. Apprenticeships and workforce centers rank high on the list.

“What many people have already said is registered apprenticeship would be near the top of the list, and there’s a lot of good evidence on that,” said Demetra Smith Nightingale, an institute fellow at the Urban Institute. “There’s also good evidence on YouthBuild, and there’s good evidence on continuing to invest in Job Corps. So I think all of those provide opportunities for combining skills, education and support services, which we think are critical ingredients.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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