Spotlight Exclusives

Obama۪s Jobs Initiative Must Include Training for Low-Skilled Workers

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As he prepares for his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Conference, President Obama on Tuesday called for greater federal investments in “green” energy programs as part of his administration۪s effort to create new jobs. In the face of 10 percent unemployment, the president outlined his administration۪s jobs initiative during a speech at the Brookings Institution. Among his proposals are plans to provide incentives for families who choose to retrofit their homes and expand select American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) initiatives that have effectively advanced green energy jobs.

But low-income, low-skilled workers who are not trained to weatherize a home will not be able to successfully participate in these new initiatives without adequate training and supports. While ARRA permits states to spend up to 20 percent of weatherization funds on entry-level training programs, the challenge remains to ensure that disconnected low-income workers are able to take advantage of this new career path. Further, states should implement reporting practices to track the extent to which low-skilled workers are participating in green jobs programs. Additional recommendations for strategies to increase access for low-skilled workers are documented in the Annie E. Casey Foundation report, Weatherization and ARRA: Challenges and Opportunities in Growing a Diverse and Quality Workforce.

In the meantime, some states are taking steps to engage low-income workers in the green economy. For example, Delaware requires all contractors to hire students enrolled in job training programs aimed at low-income communities for at least one-third of work hours. As the Obama administration continues to develop its jobs plan, federal officials should expand the progress made by states, such as Delaware, to ensure that low-income workers have access to these opportunities and are not left out of the mainstream job market.

To be sure, the Administration has already made significant strides to provide opportunity for low-income workers, as is evident in its effort to make college more affordable for low-income students. President Obama has also set a goal of helping five million additional students graduate from community colleges by 2012. And in his speech yesterday, the president called for more investments in roads, bridges and other infrastructure, as well as the extension of ARRA programs, including unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits for the 15.4 million Americans who are out of work.

But as Robert Giloth, vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, writes in this week۪s Spotlight commentary, job training programs targeted toward low-income workers are a vital component of a sustainable recovery. Federal policymakers need to invest in career-driven programs that put low-income workers on the track to long-term financial security. Job training must be an essential part of the equation.

Read more Spotlight commentaries on green jobs:

· Green Jobs and Low-Wage Workers
Karin Martinson, senior research associate, Center on Labor, Human Services and Population, the Urban Institute

· Green Jobs Can Provide a Pathway Out of Poverty for Millions of Women
Ruby Bright, Chris Grumm and Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, founding members, Women۪s Economic Security Campaign

Posted by Helina


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