Case workers in Workforce Development say that unemployment in America is a result of dislocation, not motivation. Labor statistics focus on the unemployment rate and the cost of unemployment insurance to the taxpayer, but case workers focus on the causes of unemployment and the massive effort to rearrange and retrain the American labor force.
They tell us that three major cultural shifts dramatically altered the American workforce since the 1980s.
- The creation of corporate executive stock options ushered in an era of short-term profitability focus resulting in the export of most unskilled manufacturing labor offshore to countries with an abundance of cheap labor (Mexico, China, etc.). This gradual shift not only shipped out millions of manufacturing jobs but also weakened the labor movement that had protected workers since the beginning of the post-war era.
- The technological revolution of the 1990s automated out of existence the second wave of semi-skilled manual labor not only in manufacturing but also in agriculture.
- The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 crushed the entire service industry and created the most severe unemployment bubble since the Great Depression - (Unemployment end of 2019 - 3.5% - Unemployment 1st. half of 2020 - 14.5%).
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
The U.S. Congress and workforce development professionals across the country have been attacking the country’s labor dislocation problem largely unnoticed. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act received a $178 million boost to $3 billion under the FY 2020 spending bill that was passed in June 2019 by the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Adult programs will receive $900 million
- Youth activities will receive $964 million.
- $1.1 billion will support Dislocated Worker programs.
- ETA funding will also support the YouthBuild program ($128 million), Registered Apprenticeships ($250 million) and the Job Corps program ($1.9 billion).
- Notably, the legislation allocates $150 million in new funding for community colleges and eligible four-year partner programs. This new funding source, which would be distributed via Strengthening Community College Training Grants (SCCTG), would be aimed at meeting local and regional labor market demand by providing skills training to employees in in-demand industries.
WIOA is designed to be a demand driven workforce development system that operates as a federal, state and local partnership. The Title 1 programs include local Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) and American Job Centers (AJCs). In addition to mapping out workforce goals, local boards also oversee the operation of AJCs, which deliver hands-on career resources to residents and businesses that are tailored to local needs. This system is designed to provide employment and training services that are responsive to the demands of local area employers.
Workforce Development Boards
Local WDBs can be made up of one or several counties that develop strategic workforce plans and funding priorities for their local jurisdictions. Board members are appointed by local elected officials and include representatives from counties and cities and community-based organizations, a majority of whose members must be representatives of business.
Three major initiatives were identified by workforce development case workers to guide the work of WDBs:
- Bring together key community partners to inventory current assets and opportunities and develop a local workforce plan that incorporates realistic strategic actions.
- Create and incorporate methods to expand career exploration and development that resonate with both the current local adult and future youth workforce participants.
- Once these are outlined, leverage both public and private financial support to help activate the plan.
Dislocation NOT Motivation
Unfortunately, the American public believes that uneducated immigrants and lazy indigents fill up the unemployment rolls and collect unemployment benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The dislocation of the American workforce outlined above is the real problem and the crucial question is, what actions can a community take that will support the local workforce now and also lay the groundwork for an improved economic future? Workforce development case workers are hard at work trying to execute solutions to our massive labor dislocation problem.