Thursday, December 26, 2013

WIA Reauthorization and the End of 2013

KRA Corporation examines where the Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization stands as this year draws to a close.

With questions circulating about the future of important federally-funded programs, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and its pending reauthorization should receive some special mention. Since it was last revisited in 2003, the failure to reauthorize P.L.105-220 has claimed some invaluable funding streams for workforce development programs.  

It has not all been "can kicking" down the aisle. There have been reformation and reauthorization efforts on both sides of the political equation in recent years. This year, the Senate approved S. 1356 and the House passed H.R. 803, both of which offered potential alternatives to the current incarnation of the now-annually appropriated system. 

As reported in the Congressional Research Service in a comparison of the current law and the marked up version of S. 1356 , some of the major changes include: “the adoption of primary indicators of performance across all WIA titles, the requirement of a Unified State Plan that includes all core programs, the authorization of innovation and replication grants, greater emphasis on economic and employment outcomes for adult education programs, and expanded services for youth and students with disabilities.”

The same service reported that H.R. 803 would “maintain the One-Stop delivery system established by WIA but would repeal numerous programs authorized by WIA and other federal legislation, and it would consolidate other programs into a new single funding source—the Workforce Investment Fund. Adult Education and Vocational Rehabilitation retain separate titles and funding in H.R. 803.”

It is evident that there are some considerable differences in the WIA Reauthorization efforts—which the National Association of Regional Councils compiled a side-by-side comparison of—with the major difference existing within the states’ roles in fund management.  

The House version overhauls the system to decentralize the funding with states being given more autonomy to spend as they see fit in, while the Senate’s more or less maintains the status quo, requiring a submission of a state unified plan to the federal government.

As in previous attempts at WIA reauthorization, this current iteration has failed to produce a shift in policy. Despite a report being ordered on July 31, 2013 report, S. 1356 is still awaiting full Senate consideration and H.R 803 has lain dormant since it was passed in the House of Representatives on March 15, 2013.

As 2013 draws to a close, we at KRA Corporation remain confident that the current initiatives and recent Federal programmatic additions aimed at arming the U.S. workforce with the 21st-Century skills to be globally competitive and bolstering the economy will serve as the impetus for a bi-partisan push for WIA reauthorization in the near future.

Additionally, KRA Corporation looks forward to lending our legislative support and extensive programmatic experience to making the eventual process a fruitful and successful venture.




Monday, December 23, 2013

Emergency Unemployment Compensation Benefits Program Set to Expire

Today seems set to be the day that millions of unemployed Americans will receive their final Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefit payment. The extension of these federally-funded unemployment benefits that is currently being offered to some 1.6 million jobless Americans is set to expire on December 31, 2013 with no phase-out period.

Congress has the capability and the authority to extend the deadline on those benefits (the parameters and proposed congressional amendments of which are outlined in this report by the Congressional Research Service).

However, the current bipartisan budget deal presented by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., does not contain any provision that could push that expiration forward, or set a new date.

The lack of any mention for extending the funding program in the proposed budget does not bode well for the EUC. Something the italicized “if” (in the statement "If the EUC program is extended by the U.S. Congress, benefits will be paid at that time if all other requirements of the law have been met") on the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation website would seem to tacitly acknowledge.

So, despite efforts by the White House, Democrats and some moderate Republicans, it seems that time—and energy—might run out on the effort to extend the additional emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for those unemployed Americans who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits.

But, as grave as the situation is for the 1.6 million recipients affected by the recent budget considerations (and who will be cut off on in late December), it also stands to impact a significant number of people beyond when an additional almost 4 million people will lose UI benefits in the first half of the new year.

Sadly, as of a November State of Working America report, there is still almost a 3-1 seeker-to-available job ratio in the U.S.—a statistic that KRA Corporationconsistently and actively attempts to influence positively through the operation of  WIA-funded One-Stop Career Centers for Adult, Dislocated, and Youth jobseekers, as well as several types of TANF-funded Work Participation, Placement, and Support Services Programs for recipients of public assistance. 

KRA Corporation will continue to advocate for programs that are dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and strengthening the communities in which we live, remains hopeful that the prevailing economic situation will sway lawmakers to revisit the much-needed EUC benefit for our long-term unemployed jobseekers.




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Apprenticeship Model Gains Traction but Barriers Remain

KRA Corporation has followed the increased attention that apprenticeship is receiving in the effort to revitalize workforce initiatives for youth and we look at some of the barriers it faces.

There has been a fair amount of buzz recently around the advantages of adopting the apprenticeship model as a solution to the burgeoning unemployment figures among U.S. youth.

It does have one major fan in its corner—President Barack Obama—who believes: "an economy built to last demands that we keep doing everything we can to help students learn the skills that businesses are looking for." His commitment to that belief in the apprenticeship model was very clearly demonstrated with his Youth CareerConnect grant program.

With a widening skills gap threatening companies that need skilled labor if the re-emerging manufacturing sector is to blossom, it seems like a fairly simple (and successfully proven) solution to harness or create those skills from an early age—something that KRA Corporation fully appreciates and seeks to promote through its successful WIA Youth Services Programs.

However, the earn-as-you-learn model continues—as it has for quite some time—to be a sticky one for many different factions directly involved in the process, as well as those that are affected by it. For some it is viewed with skepticism, and for others flat-out scorn.

It doesn’t help that there seems to be a stigma attached to the vocational education system.  And it is a stigma that directly impacts those that it is targeting—the youth.  Despite it being outdated with the skills required to perform these jobs becoming increasingly more technical, the belief that this is the purview of the under-educated still abounds. It is a sentiment that is eroding (according to this Reading Eagle article) but still clings to life.

Along those same lines, part of the battle is the culture of the natural (and aspirational) progression of education which dictates students finish high school, go to college, and then find a befitting job. It is still espoused that those who couldn’t quite make the grade (or get the grades) where the group who took the other route—setting up the two-tier mentality.

From an employment point of view, the detraction is that it is a dead-end proposition with no room for further education while removing any opportunity for upward mobility or prospects for alternate employment if the industry down-turned.

It also requires buy-in from the companies themselves, many of whom have neither the resources nor the inclination to take the training upon themselves. Some organizations feel that this responsibility to provide trained workers is someone else’s responsibility.

Ineffective implementation efforts or protocols, initial capital inputs, and overall lack of understanding of the process when attempting it slow it down and with minimal returns that seem to reinforce those misconceptions, it is deemed an unsustainable model.

One hurdle, a New York Times article reporting  on new apprenticeship models, based on German school-to-industry partnership models that are being adopted in South Carolina, is that companies see apprenticeships as gateways to unions.

Perhaps it could be as simple as the parochial U.S. mindset that “our way is better” or “this isn’t our system, it’s what they do in Europe” and it is this way of thinking that needs to change.

KRA Corporation applauds any effort that moves the development needle that impacts our youth—a core component of the modern U.S. workforce. We remain committed to ensuring the success of the WIA Youth Services and Workforce Investment Board system and are hopeful that future models related to workforce development initiatives for youth will continue to help the cause.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sector-driven Workforce Development…Is it Working?—Part 2

KRA Corporation continues this short series, looking at sector-based employment and training as a much-needed approach for some local workforce and economic development systems…

A few weeks ago, it was reported here that 10 years ago, the Bush administration laid out a “groundbreaking approach for closing employment skills gaps”---the High Growth Job Training Initiative (HGJTI) aimed at equipping workers with the technical skills they need to be successful in the workforce.  The full article can be viewed here.

The Department of Labor (DOL), through the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Women’s Bureau, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), have all contributed significantly to DOL’s intent “to invest in national models and demonstrations of workforce solutions in these [14 HGJTI] sectors.”  Many of these models and demonstrations were funded through grant programs.

Activities conducted as part of the HGJTI focused on the distribution of products and lessons-learned resulting from grants to Community Based Organizations (CBO)/ other non-profit organizations, community colleges/other institutions of higher education, Workforce Investment Boards (WIB), State and local government agencies, and other eligible workforce investment system stakeholders.

Some of the grants with HGJTI goals and objectives included the following:

  • Older Worker Demonstration Grants addressed the workforce challenges facing older individuals by providing training and related services for individuals age 55 and older that result in employment and advancement opportunities in high-growth industries and economic sectors.

  • Community-Based Job Training Grants supported workforce training for high-growth industries through the national system of community and technical colleges through funds awarded to individual community and technical colleges, community college districts, state community college systems, and One-Stop Career Centers.

  • YouthBuild Grants provided disadvantaged, low-income youth with education and employment skills necessary to achieve economic self-sufficiency in occupations in high demand, including opportunities for education and training, for meaningful work, and developing employment and leadership skills.

  • Technology-Based Learning Initiative Grants expanded access to training resulting in an increased number of workers trained, particularly in high-growth, high-demand occupations, and to meet the needs of industry for skilled employees.  These grants were designed to expand the vital role of TBL in helping workers quickly acquire the training and skills they need to be successful in today’s global economy.

  •  Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations Grants conducted innovative projects to improve the recruitment, selection, training, employment, and retention of women in apprenticeships in the construction industry through three RAP (Registered  Apprenticeship Program)/CBO consortia, each consisting of a minimum of: (1) a construction industry RAP sponsor; and (2) a CBO with demonstrated experience in  job-training services that included hard- and soft-skill development and job-placement and support to women for construction industry jobs.

  • High-Growth Job Training Initiative for the Energy Industry/Construction and Skilled Trades in the Energy Industry Grants for high-impact regional approaches to meet the workforce challenges of the energy industry and/or address the shortage of construction and skilled trade workers needed to maintain and expand the energy industry infrastructure.

  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Opportunities in the Workforce System Initiative Grants expanded and aligned current and new STEM workforce education and training strategies, activities, and resources in One Stop Career Centers to promote, attract, and prepare disadvantaged youth and dislocated workers for STEM careers, while simultaneously enhancing the competitive position of local and regional employers., which continues to gained momentum

  • Health Profession Opportunity Grants, established by The Affordable Care Act of 2010 and funded by the DHHS, provided for training programs in high-demand health care professions to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients and other low-income individuals.

The next article in this series will explore the DOL/WIA- and DHHS/TANF-funded programs, including those operated by KRA Corporation, that provide targeted education and training opportunities available to prepare jobseeker-customers for employment in those industries identified locally as high-growth employment business sectors.

KRA Corporation leverages its 30+ years’ experience in program development, management, and operation to assist our employer-customers in high-growth sectors, while still ensuring that all jobseeker-customers are equitably served according to their individual needs.  In this way, we continue to prepare job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and to supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Youth CareerConnect Grants Give Skills Initiative Additional Boost

The Obama administration has taken another step toward making good on its promise to help better prepare students entering the workforce, as well as ensuring that the U.S workforce can compete globally, by announcing $100 million dollars to fund Youth CareerConnect  Grants.

This competitive grant—using money from the H1-B visa program—offers awards of between $2-$7 million for 25-40 education agencies, public or non-profit local workforce entities, or non-profits with education reform experience involved in individual or multi-site projects.

It is reassuring that the commitments made are being honored by lawmakers, and KRA Corporation applauds the continued investment in the upcoming generation of young workers, as well as providing a viable platform for forward-thinking solutions to workforce development.

As an organization that pioneered the YES (Youth Employability & Success) Program as part of its comprehensive WIA Youth Services operations, KRA Corporation advocates for any program that will provide relevant education, training, and work-readiness programs for the at-risk youth population benefitting the individual, businesses, and overall economic growth.

An increasing number of high school students lack exposure to meaningful links between secondary and postsecondary education or available career paths. This new initiative is modeled after career and technical education programs (like P-TECH) whose programs are operated in collaboration with corporations, folding in certifications (in the form of Associates Degrees) with basic requirements for entry-level employment within the sponsoring corporation.

According to the DOLETA fact sheet, this program is designed to increase the flow of prepared workers into the system through five combined principles: Integrated Academic and Career-Focused Learning, Work-Based Learning and Exposure to the World of Work, Robust Employer Engagement, Individualized Career and Academic Counseling and Integration of Post-secondary Education and Training.

According to Politico, the program has received a frosty reception from some education groups who have concerns about the limiting scope that the competitive nature of the granting process will have on schools. The inaccessibility by some rural schools that do not have grant writers nor some of the basic criteria for eligibility due to location and size was another sticking point.

It has also drawn criticism from inside the government for bypassing support from associated lawmakers, and its seemingly direct competition with the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program (which is up for reauthorization), thereby adding a different and potentially confusing level to the system.

KRA Corporation understands that bringing projects to the scale of magnitude that this program requires to be deemed successful is a difficult proposition. However, we remain optimistic that these grants could represent a necessary step toward youth employment and global competitiveness, as well as a boost for the economy in the future.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Difference in Getting Paid

As a company that has dedicated more than 30 years to improving the lives of individuals and strengthening the communities in which we live, KRA Corporation cast an intrigued eye over two interesting articles—both of which dealt with disparities in what workers have traditionally gotten paid—from the different DOL departments in the official blog, Work in Progress.

Most interesting was the scope of focus regarding how the various tiers of payment practices and the discrepancies that exist have affected workers among certain groups. As many strides have been made in creating parity in the workforce since the turn of the 20th century, KRA Corporation recognizes that there remain some glaring gaps that will have to be tackled before a level and equitable playing field can exist.

The first article, Keeping the Promise of Opportunity, by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, took a highline approach to addressing an issue that has been on the workforce radar as high up as the Oval Office—increasing the federal minimum wage. It is something that he sees as “part of a larger struggle to cut poverty and to address the challenge of income inequality.”

This is an issue that has drawn criticism from many detractors but one that President Obama (dubbing it “unfinished business”) has openly supported and which remains a hot topic issue on Capitol Hill—so much so that Lauren Fox of U.S. News believes it is a powerful enough issue that it will be used for political leverage in 2014.

The second article, Women of Color: An Economic Snapshot, penned by acting director of the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau, Latifa Lyles, offers an interesting and more granular look at a particular segment of the workforce that is directly impacted by disparities in equality within the payment structure—women of color.

The statistical analysis of the differences details just how marked a gap there is in earnings, despite similar capabilities. Noting the positive steps that are being taken to narrowing that earnings margin, it remains staggering to see just how disparate of scale that exists between genders and then even more so between races.

Both articles highlight the breadth and depth of the issues surrounding pay scale discrepancies in the workforce. It is a concern that will require a concerted and focused effort—at both a company and Federal level—in creating an equitable balance among members of the U.S. workforce.

KRA Corporation advocates for equality in all facets of workforce development, both in earning and equitable treatment among all members constituting the workforce, and our team will continue to support the efforts of those changing the status quo at a policy level.  We offer our sincerest thanks to those companies that further the move toward payment equality as a standard practice.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

U.S. Department of Labor Carries On Its Work

It is reassuring to see that it is business as usual around the halls of the Department of Labor (DOL), which has picked up right where it left off after the temporary shutdown, with last week proving to be very productive for the agency.

Labor Secretary Perez offered his opinions on the employment figures for October (which continue to move in a healthy direction). In his characteristic uncompromising fashion, the Secretary took a very outspoken approach on actions by the government that he feels have hindered forward progress in social and employment equity, as well as hurting the overall cause of workforce development.

The Secretary remained critical of the recent government shutdown stating “The American people deserve leadership that focuses on growing the economy—not holding it hostage.”

KRA Corporation remains firm in its support of those who champion the plight of the U.S. workforce, and as such we appreciate the Secretary’s resolute commitment to that workforce, as well as his endeavors to keep its development and new initiatives moving forward.

The Senate also recently passed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that has drawn criticisms from different and sometimes unexpected quarters. If signed into law, this bill promises to offer protection and safeguards to all employees regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity—specific protections that to date are non-existent in Federal civil-rights law.

As this relates to equitable treatment in the workplace, KRA Corporation is pleased to see the passage of this bill into the House of Representatives as a step forward to workplaces that are fairly and equally represented.

Although not directly related to current events in workforce development, KRA Corporation is pleased to observe that the DOL remains current in ensuring that every opportunity for the U.S. workforce is made available by highlighting some of those rungs on the ladder to success that might otherwise be missed.

A recent post on the Work in Progress blog discussed the importance of employees taking responsibility for their own financial future by heeding some of the warning signs that their retirement savings might be in jeopardy.

The post highlights five examples, which could indicate that a 401(k) plan is not being managed correctly or is being abused. It even goes as far as to point those who feel that they are not being best served towards the assistance they need.

KRA Corporation applauds the DOL’s impressive output since the shutdown and especially the steps taken in regard to increased equity for all stakeholders and members in the workforce. With the strides being taken, we anticipate that workforce development efforts should yield some very exciting and bold outcomes in the very near future for employers and employees alike.



Friday, November 15, 2013

Our Veterans: Opportunities to Serve Beyond the Military

Veterans Day prompted a buzz in the Department of Labor (DOL), with the agency highlighting the legislation that was passed this year, as well as the existing resources available to this important workforce group.

KRA Corporation believes that—after youth employment programming—our veterans are the most important group in public workforce policy and so we are heartened to see that the DOL’s commitment to improving the employment plight of U.S. veterans remains consistent.

Ensuring that veterans get access to employment programs and initiatives is something in which Secretary of Labor Perez has taken a personal interest, overseeing the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service program to help veterans find civilian jobs.

It is indeed an alarming statistic that in 2012 there were estimates of as many as 62,000 homeless veterans, while in 2011 a reported 900,000 ex-servicemen and women relied on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to sustain themselves and their dependents.

In his recent blog post, Secretary Perez pointed to the existing programs that are designed specifically to help veterans return to civilian life and find sustainable jobs in an effort to combat the reported high rates of unemployment (upwards of 20% among veterans between ages 18-24).

Programs like Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, or VRAP (which KRA Corporation highlighted in a post), the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), and the additional help provided specifically for veterans at American Job Centers (still known as One-Stop Career Centers in some sectors) around the U.S. all aim to address and overcome the barriers that re-entry into civilian life can present.

The First and Second Ladies have also lent their efforts through the Joining Forces program. This program rallies support from all quarters of society to provide resources that target employment, education and continuing health opportunities for active and past military and their families.

The update to the Family Medical Leave Act, relating to continued benefits and extended leaves of absence for family members caring for returning military personnel injured in conflict and deployment-related considerations, is further evidence that the DOL is committed to the needs of servicemen and women beyond simply helping to find employment.

Principal deputy administrator for the Wage and Hour Division, Laura Fortman, perhaps mirrored KRA Corporation’s sentiments best regarding both our military personnel and employees when she said: “No one should have to choose between the job they need and caring for the family that needs them.”

Our military personnel made the choice to serve their country, and deserve our thanks and our respect. Their service also translates into invaluable skills and attributes that are of great use in the civilian workforce.

KRA Corporation will continue to focus our experience and efforts on helping to serve a vital part of the U.S. workforce and ensure that our military personnel receive the peacetime support and opportunities they need to succeed in the civilian workforce.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sector-driven Workforce Development…Is it Working?

KRA Corporation looks at sector-based employment and training as a much-needed  approach for some local workforce and economic development systems…

Ten years ago, then President George W. Bush laid out what his administration considered a “groundbreaking approach for closing employment skills gaps.”  In his address, he stated “The High Growth Job Training Initiative…is aiming to give workers the skills they need to realize their dreams. It’s a collaborative effort to help team up people with the jobs that are needed, to make sure that the changes in our economy don’t leave people behind.”

Subsequently, the Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) website reported, “This initiative represents the first step in a series of actions…to engage business, education and the workforce investment system to work together to develop solutions to the workforce challenges facing high growth industries.

Fields like health care, information technology, and advanced manufacturing have jobs and solid career paths left open due to a lack of people qualified to fill them.  The High Growth Job Training Initiative  targets education and skills development resources toward helping workers gain the skills they need to build successful careers in these and other growing industries.”

The report continued, “To put this approach into action, ETA identified 14 sectors that fit within the following criteria: (1) they are projected to add substantial numbers of new jobs to the economy or affect the growth of other industries; or (2) they are existing or emerging businesses being transformed by technology and innovation requiring new skills sets for workers."  The 14 sectors identified are: Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace, Automotive, Biotechnology, Construction, Energy, Financial Services, Geospatial Technology, Health Care, Homeland Security, Hospitality, Information Technology, Retail, and Transportation.

The report concluded, “The High Growth Job Training Initiative [HGJTI] continues to invest in national models and demonstrations of workforce solutions in these sectors designed to achieve the following outcomes: Targeted investment of workforce development resources and support for private and public sector partnerships to ensure the development of workers’ skills in occupations where industry has identified needs [and] Increased integration of community and technical college efforts with business and the public workforce system activities to meet the skills training needs of high growth industries.”

By expanding local workforce systems’---i.e., Workforce Investment Boards through which many KRA programs are funded---capacity (1) to contribute  to the economic development of the community, (2) to be market-driven, and (3) to be responsive to local workforce needs, DOL/ETA promotes economic competitiveness, enhanced productivity, and true workforce quality through HGJTI programming.

Through the operation of its One-Stop Career Center Programs, KRA Corporation continually encourages employers operating in high-growth sectors to use Apprenticeships, Occupational Skills Training, and On-the-Job Training Programs as viable skills-development resources to ensure themselves a pipeline of skilled workers, which in turn, provides workers with career enhancing opportunities in high-growth sector occupations.

In future Workforce&Government articles, KRA Corporation will take a look at both grant- and contract-funded DOL/ETA programs designed to provide training opportunities in those industries identified as high-growth employment business sectors, as well as a healthcare-sector opportunity grant program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.  We will also explore some State's initiatives---Full Employment Programs---and the role they play in assisting employers to train workers that are needed to fill employment gaps in targeted sectors.

KRA Corporation will continue to leverage its 30+ years’ experience in program development, management, and operation to assist our employer-customers in high-growth sectors, while still ensuring that all jobseeker-customers are equitably served according to their individual needs.  In this way, we continue to prepare job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and to supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Make it in America Challenge Grants Aim at Economic Growth, Job Creation

KRA Corporation explores the new Obama Administration initiative designed to create projects that aid in accelerated job creation and increased business investment in the manufacturing sector.

The winners of the Make it in America Challenge were announced recently with the 10 grantees receiving a combined total of $20,533,409 for “projects supporting regional economic development, advanced skills training, greater supply chain access and other enhancements.”

The grant winners submitted applications for projects that “help distressed regions build on existing assets, promote a competitive environment for foreign-owned and domestic firms to establish and grow their U.S. operations, create jobs and develop a skilled workforce for specific industries.”

The Make it in America Challenge—a jointly-funded effort aiding programs whose aim is to keep, expand, or reshore U.S.-based manufacturing operations, as well as attracting foreign business investment—is an attempt to develop and explore sustainable and means of capitalizing on the recent resurgence in the manufacturing sector (with reported figures of over half a million jobs created in this industry).

The initiative looks to strengthen the economy and build on the manufacturing sector’s recent success by convincing both international and domestic businesses to either build and/or expand their U.S. operations. By encouraging U.S companies to reshore or expand domestic facilities, and attracting new international business investment and operations, job creation—and skilled jobs at that—will be accelerated further.

Secretary Perez, speaking to the initiative said: "in an increasingly sophisticated economy, equipping workers with the skills they need to succeed on the job isn't just a workforce development issue, but also an economic development issue and the partnerships funded through these Make it in America Challenge grants are helping to lead the way."

As a company dedicated to leading workforce development into the future, KRA Corporation appreciates the emphasis placed on the need for strategies and programs that equip workers with the requisite skills that, not only provide businesses with a trained and capable worker, but also the ability to adapt and succeed into the future.

As part of the initiative, the Department of Commerce published an informational tool, the Assess Costs Everywhere (ACE), which highlights the associated costs and risks of offshore production as well as providing links to resources (public and private) to help better inform and guide companies in their decision making process as to locating offshore.

KRA Corporation salutes this bold multi-layered effort to bring companies back to the U.S. as well as attracting foreign investment onshore in an effort to stimulate the economy and aid in new job creation the same time.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

DOL Steams Ahead After Shutdown

After 16 days of being shut down, it only took the Department of Labor (DOL) a week to hit the ground running, announcing grants and measures furthering workforce development in many sectors and addressing worker safety.

Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, was critical of the government shutdown dubbing it “a divisive struggle that inflicted unnecessary wounds on the economy.” In a news release regarding the September employment figures, one which boasted the 43rd consecutive month of growth and one in which average hourly wage increased 3 cents, Secretary Perez made his feelings known.

In the release, he spoke of a “modest pace” in America’s “road to recovery” maintaining that economic uncertainty was a reality even prior to the government shutdown (what he deemed a “standoff”) and that “this avoidable confrontation was exactly what an economy on the mend did not need”.

KRA Corporation understands and appreciates Secretary Perez’s concerns regarding the potential and as yet unseen fallout regarding the lost 16 days. However, we are encouraged to see that the DOL continues ahead at full steam in trying to determine the most effective means to develop all facets and members of the U.S. workforce, while remaining vigilant on behalf of those in the workforce.

Recently, the current administration awarded $20.5 million in grants for  Make it in America Challenge—an initiative that backs the push for accelerated and increased job creation through “regional economic development, advanced skills training, greater supply chain access and other enhancements.”

In addressing increased worker safety, the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration also recently launched two new web-based resources. The first, a toolkit, offers employers a step-by-step guide to hazardous chemical substitution, while the second—the Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits (or PEL tables)—helps employers to adopt updated exposure limits aimed at offering more protection to employees.

Additionally, it was announced that the Department of Education has awarded almost $5million in research project and program development grants to five institutions to improve the lives of disabled Americans. The ultimate aim of the grants is intended to “fulfill the goal of inclusion, integration, employment and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities.”

KRA Corporation is heartened by the fact that the DOL is back in the saddle again and despite the setbacks continues to add rungs to the “ladder of opportunity” in trying to aid job growth and development as well as protecting and safeguarding the American workforce.

KRA Corporation remains confident that this administration will see the benefit of approaching workforce development as a vital cog in economic development and look to further it accordingly. The KRA Corporation team remains focused on assisting in the advancement of current, and new, innovative and far-reaching programs that prepare job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

America’s Disconnected Youth: A Problem with a Solution Pending

There is a segment of the American population with massive, untapped potential (and one that KRA Corporation has long championed) that is approaching Depression Era-levels of unemployment—America’s disconnected youth.

An interesting report from January 2012, The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth, published by researchers from University of New York and Columbia University estimated that as many as 7 million young Americans between the ages of 16-24 were out of school and unemployed in 2011.

Dubbed “Opportunity Youth,” the researchers divide the disconnected youth into two categories: chronic (unemployed and out of school or work after the age of 16) which they estimated at 3.4 million, and under-attached (limited schooling and work experience but without tertiary education of stable employment) estimated at 3.3 million.  A more recent Measure of America report from September, 2012, estimated that one in seven in that age group are disconnected and "cost" approximately $93.7 billion in government support and lost tax revenue.

Beyond the price tag for taxpayers, there is also the societal and the individual costs to consider. With the early lack of attachment, there are often far-reaching effects. Unemployment, higher likelihood of criminal activity, and poor health at a young age result in diminished vocational experience (resulting in lowered earning potential), difficulty in finding employment after incarceration, and an inability to find employment with health insurance.

The factors contributing to disconnection are numerous. Ethnicity, disability, familial instability, sexual orientation, personal beliefs, dropping out of high school, care-giving responsibilities, and mental or health conditions are some of the more documented reasons; and, according to an article posted on the CLASP website, low-income young African-American and Latino men are most at risk.

This situation has prompted Federal action. Last year speaking to the record number of America’s disconnected youth, President Obama pointed to the need for immediate action calling it an “all-hands-on-deck moment” and launched the Summer Jobs+ program as a joint initiative between the Federal government and private business. Additionally, tax credits were made available to businesses that employed disconnected youth.

The Council for Community Solutions was tasked with determining recommendations to disconnected and issued a report Community Solutions for Opportunity Youth that was aimed at “putting every young person on a clear path to economic opportunity.”

The Department of Education’s June 2012 request for information, Strategies for Improving Outcomes for Disconnected Youth, to “create innovative and comprehensive reengagement strategies that encourage additional academic and non-academic supports and support multiple pathways to prepare disconnected youth for college and career success” further evidenced the Federal government’s commitment to finding a solution by involving key stakeholders.

There is little homogeneity as to solutions in addressing or remedying the issue of disconnected youth. It is not a one-size-fits-all cure as situations and circumstances differ significantly.  Some recommendations from the Measure of America suggest that technical or vocational technology education and certificates, associate’s degrees as well as increased intervention and on-the job training be explored as potential alternatives to a 4-year degree—an opinion explored by KRA Corporation in a previous post.

The problem persists, but there seems to be an urgency at play in identifying, developing and harnessing the promise that this underserved group offers.  The KRA Corporation team continues its nationwide efforts to address this serious problem through our WIA-funded In-School and Out-of-School Youth Services Programs. Our innovative YES (Youth Employability and Success) Programs support youth education, training, and employment through an extensive mix of services.

KRA Corporation looks forward to the future efforts and policies that Federal agencies offer in combatting this pervasive problem. Every initiative and attempt is a step closer to determining a better course of action and successful integration of this population into the workforce.  In that regard, as we have for many years in the past, KRA is proudly sponsoring the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals’ 2013 Youth Development Symposium convening now (October 28-30th)  in Chicago.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Government Open for Business Again

After 16 days of a tense stand off, a 252-144 House of Representatives and 81-18 Senate vote ended the government shutdown with President Obama signing a bill last week that reopened the government until the middle of January and effectively raised the debt ceiling until early February.

As an organization dedicated for 3 decades to employment and workforce development—preparing job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and supplying employers with a trained and reliable workforce—KRA Corporation is pleased that those furloughed workers have returned to work.

Regarding the bill signing, and the end of the shutdown, President Obama said, "I've said it before, I'll say it again: I am willing to work with anybody, I am eager to work with anybody—Democrat or Republican, House or Senate members—on any idea that will grow our economy, create new jobs, strengthen the middle class, and get our fiscal house in order for the long term.”

However, there is some fallout caused by the furloughs. For the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the areas most affected deal with the immigration and the e-Verify processes. Website, Labor Immigration Law, believes that as a result “immigration-related services to be, at the very least, heavily backlogged for some time.”  And, Lexology is reporting that “while the DOL and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are considering temporary solutions for the affected H-1B petitions, these proceedings are in limbo.” We at KRA Corporation wish all those businesses and individuals affected by the shutdown a speedy resolution and all the best in hiring the most-qualified candidates.

As for official announcements, other than the Statement on September Employment Situation report and the posting by Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, Kathy Martinez, addressing the importance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the official blog, Work In Progress, has remained somewhat quiet since the restart with no words or thoughts from DOL Secretary Tom Perez.

The KRA Corporation team, however, remains confident that the important work and innovative policies coming out of Secretary Perez’s office regarding workforce development will resume at the blistering pace they were before the shutdown occurred, and there will be plenty to highlight in the coming weeks.

KRA Corporation is most pleased that with the government employees back in their offices, we can get back to doing what we do best: supporting the mission of those Federal, state, and local agencies that improve the lives of individuals and strengthen the communities in which we live.



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Looking at Federal Workforce Development Positives

The recent Federal government hiatus gave us at KRA Corporation pause to reflect on and highlight some of the recent positive and innovative actions of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) related to workforce development.

After being sworn in as the newest Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez described the DOL as the “quarterback in a workforce-development system” in an interview with the Washington Post. Even though his tenure has been short, the new Secretary has had a busy period at the helm for the DOL.

A staunch advocate of workers’ rights, he has dubbed the DOL as the “department of opportunity,” speaking frequently of the “ladder of opportunity” and his dedication to the President’s move for a “better bargain for the middle class.”

Skills acquisition—enabling workers to be competitive in the 21st Century—has been a recurrent theme, and as one of the main focuses of the current administration it has received considerable resources and attention.

It was announced that another $474.5 million grant was being added to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program to aid in developing the skills infrastructure.

Secretary of Labor Perez, an active proponent of skill development, said this of its impact: “Helping people acquire new skills and access new training programs allows them to climb ladders of opportunity to secure a foothold in the middle class. Building human capital in this way is one key way to accelerate the recovery and unleash the economy’s full potential.”

Secretary Perez also saw the implementation of the $24 million Workforce Investment Fund (WIF) Pay For Success grant pilot. This innovative new initiative relies on Social investment Bonds, shifting the initial financial burden to private sector financial investment with government agencies then only paying for trackable and defined outcomes.

Disabled workers have received a much-needed boost ahead of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The finalized rule changes to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (promoting better affirmative action hires within government contractors) and an announcement that almost $10 million in additional funding will be made available for improved employment opportunities for disabled workers are a welcome aid to those disabled workers seeking employment and workforce equality.

New Hampshire’s at-risk 16-24 year old disconnected youth received a lift with the announcement that a Jobs Corps Center will soon be established in that state as a means to provide valuable job training to this unemployed segment of the population.

Having served all sectors of the unemployed spectrum, KRA Corporation applauds policy and program creation that provide services targeted at enhancing the skills and opportunities of all jobseekers—regardless of circumstance—to meet the demands of employers thereby providing a qualified, competitive labor pool.

As always, KRA Corporation remains resolute in our promise to prepare job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and to supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.  We appreciate the current efforts of all Federal agencies that aid us in this mission, and look forward to future initiatives, policies, and programs that will continue to do so.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Furloughs and Their Extended Impacts

Much has been written about the recent shutdown by the U.S. Government, including the financial plight and implications of those most affected, but the psychological impact of this action is one that does not prompt the attention it deserves.

This reduced employment cost-saving technique—increasingly popular since the recession’s effects became fully understood—has been utilized in both the public and private sector; and though the effects of furlough might have subtle differences to actual job loss, it still has serious and negative implications.

A recent 2013 Journal of Applied Psychology article, The impact of furloughs on emotional exhaustion, self-rated performance, and recovery experiences, explores how furloughs affect the emotive and post-furlough mental state as well as subsequent job performance.  Their findings indicated that beyond the stresses of income loss (something that KRA Corporation highlighted in a previous post), that a furlough triggers a loss—to varying degrees—of physical, mental, and emotional resources among employees.

The authors’ evidence suggest that a furlough’s effects reach back into the workplace with employees experiencing emotional exhaustion and performance deterioration, including a decreased ability to complete job responsibilities and an increased carelessness with company property.

A Washington Post article, Psychological effects of being furloughed, asserts that the government furlough: “sends government employees home without a paycheck, job, or an uncertain future, it shakes the foundations of employee confidence to the core.  The rug of confidence and peace of mind is yanked out from under them.”  

Author, Paul Mountjoy, goes on to say: “Loss of quality sleep, anger towards those perceived as having caused the furlough, loss of respect of leadership and loss of external and internal control called ‘locus of control’ in psychology, can affect self-esteem, self-efficacy and doubt not only in the nation’s infrastructure but self-importance as some of the federal government employees are not furloughed as deemed too important to furlough.”

Another study, Making Negative a Positive: Furloughs, Family Benefits, and Job Satisfaction by researchers Ann Huffman and Lori Muse, points to perceived break in the “psychological contract between employer and employee” and increased work overload as the two major negatives that result from a furlough.

Huffman maintains that: “Furloughs impact job attitudes, morale, and how employees regard management. Resources are needed in both private and public sectors, and they are being taken away, which can be annoying to employees.”

KRA Corporation understands the impact that loss of employment, no matter how temporary, has on individuals and families and has spent over 3 decades attempting to get those unemployed workers back into the workplace through designing and implementing innovative and award-winning programs.

KRA Corporation is empathetic to those that are currently unemployed and our team will continue to work, and effect change, for those that are jobless—both through action and policy— to help strengthen communities…one individual resident at a time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Disabled Workers Get National Recognition, Increased Federal Aid

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Themed "Because We Are EQUAL to the Task” by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the object of the campaign is to acknowledge the abilities---the experience and expertise---that workers with challenging mental and/or physical conditions can contribute to our workforce.

In a September 30, 2013, White House Press Release, President Obama's Proclamation read, "Our Nation has always drawn its strength from the differences of our people, from a vast range of thought, experience, and ability.  Every day, Americans with disabilities enrich our communities and businesses.  They are leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators, each with unique talents to contribute and points of view to express.  During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we nurture our culture of diversity and renew our commitment to building an American workforce that offers inclusion and opportunity for all."

DOL has been active ahead of this month’s awareness push. Recently, two finalized rule changes regarding the affirmative action hiring practices of veterans—Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA)—and disabled workers—Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973—by Federal contractors and subcontractors (which KRA Corporation recently highlighted in a post) were published in the Federal Register for implementation in March of 2014.

ODEP also announced that there will be an award of almost $10 million of extra funds aimed at improving the opportunity for employing people with disabilities. This additional funding will be given to “organizations managing consortia that develop models, provide technical assistance and share best practices to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has dubbed his office as the Department of Opportunity said, “These grants will help better connect people with disabilities with employers who can greatly benefit from their skills and experience."

In another block of grant money aimed at providing education, training and employment opportunities for disabled youth and adults, eight states are set to receive nearly $18 million as part of part of the Disability Employment Initiative.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, one of three new grantees, will receive the highest award ($3 million) to “build upon American Job Center network's capacity to serve Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities.”

And, as a story of interest, the Smithsonian Institute will be running an exhibit from October through January including photography, paintings, and sculptures created by young artists from 16 to 25 with disabilities.

KRA Corporation has an extensive track record of working on a number of initiatives committed to providing information on a wide range of topics, including assistive devices, as well as materials, publications, and other resources relevant to the special needs of disabled Americans.  We appreciate the depth of effort it requires to raise awareness, as well as to change perceptions, regarding our neighbors with development and/or physical challenges.

KRA Corporation wishes ODEP all the best, not just this month, but each and every every month to come in the new Fiscal Year, and beyond.  Their efforts on behalf of people with disabilites in the workforce continue to be an important movement toward equality among workers and equitable treatment throughout the workforce development system.

D.C. "Living Wage" Bill Vetoed

The “Living Wage” bill, (as discussed by KRA Corporation in a previous post) has been the subject of heated debate in the nation’s capital. It was recently defeated when Washington D.C. Mayor, Vincent C. Gray vetoed the bill. In detailing the reason for the veto, Mayor Gray described it as a “job killer”.  The subsequent D.C. council vote to try and override the veto failed when only seven of nine Council members voted against the measure.

Opponents to the bill—known as the Large Retailer Accountability Act—felt the criteria placed on particular larger corporations was unfair and likely to keep businesses out of D.C., while supporters pointed to the increasing difficulty for area residents to make ends meet considering D.C.’s low-wage employment.

The bill has drawn some attention, and some intense discourse, from quarters across the country. The debate over the need to increase jobs as a means to stimulate the economy versus the quality of life that these low-wage jobs will ultimately offer has sparked impassioned sentiments with the benefits of employers and employees being put at odds.

The topic of minimum wage has been one that continues to make headlines around the country (as monitored by KRA Corporation in earlier posts). President Obama has come out strongly in favor of raising the Federal minimum wage, calling on Congress to do so, stating that  “no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.”

Minimum wage increases continue to raise concerns about how business will be negatively impacted and that it can have the same job-killing results that Mayor Gray quoted.

Department of Labor Secretary, Tom Perez— who has championed the cause of raising the minimum wage since taking office—used the official blog Work in Progress, to address those concerns and to believing that an increase represents a “fair shake” and a vision that “the middle class is within reach no matter who you are or where you come from.”

Furthering discourse, and/or at the very least heightening awareness, regarding the plight of those living on minimum wage in an attempt to move closer toward employment-and-earning equality is a position that KRA Corporation fully endorses.

Despite Mayor Gray's veto, as an organization operating two TANF Employment Programs for the D.C. Department of Human Services, KRA's Corporations's mission continues to be rooted in preparing D.C job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy, and supplying area employers with a trained and reliable workforce.  Our efforts in D.C workforce development remain committed to improving the lives of individuals and their communities.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pay For Success Program Piloted with Grants Awarded to NY, MA

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced the award of almost $24 million dollars in Pay For Success (PFS) grants through the Workforce Investment Fund (WIF).  The initial solicitation for $20 million in PFS funds was increased to include fiscal years 2012 and 2013 funds due to the quality of the applications.

This is in addition to the $147 million of WIF grants that were awarded earlier this year ”to develop and expand innovative strategies to help Americans return to work.”

In a recent post, Paying For Success: A Potential Future Funding Model for Workforce Development, KRA Corporation highlighted the program, looking at some of the benefits and costs associated with the model.

The grant money—to be split almost evenly between the N.Y. Department of Labor ($12,000,000) and the Massachusetts Office of Labor and Workforce Development ($11,670,000)—is earmarked for the improvement the employment outcomes and to attempt to reduce recidivism rates of formerly incarcerated individuals.

The PFS model has gained traction in recent years in programs around the world through the issuing of Social Impact Bonds wherein multiple stakeholders are involved in financing social programs with government agencies paying once track-able outcomes have been achieved.

The shift of financial responsibility from public to private sector revenue streams is becoming more popular of a model and some think more viable, too.

DOL Secretary Tom Perez said of the program: "At a time when all levels of government are experiencing cutbacks, Pay for Success offers a new approach to strategically leverage resources to provide essential services for vulnerable populations through programs with measurable success rates."

Secretary Perez went on to dub the program as “a promising strategy for expanding effective programs while ensuring maximum return on taxpayer dollars." A major component of this new model is the rigor with which the program and their results will be evaluated.

KRA Corporation can fully appreciate the necessity for innovative and far-reaching programmatic advances in the rapidly evolving workforce development arena. With an economy that is still gridlocked, sustainability and measurable outcomes take on even more importance.

Still in its fledgling state, the PFS model will have to show that it can be a viable model with the goal of developing the most effective strategies in workforce development (through expanding the body of knowledge), while investing taxpayer dollars more wisely, spending them only on those outcomes deemed successful by independent evaluators.

KRA Corporation salutes the work of the DOL as well as those stakeholders willing to lend their support—both financial and philosophical—to the future of workforce development.  We will continue to remain at the forefront of workforce development, and look forward to following the progress of this new PFS program model.

Monday, September 30, 2013

On-The-Job Training, Apprenticeships: Is There a Growing Need?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed youth in July 2013 was 3.8 million, which represents 16.3% unemployment in the 16-24 year-old age group. It is more than double the current general reported unemployment figure—something that has drawn interest from many quarters.

Two opinion pieces, from Robert Ketchum, PhD and economist Robert Lerman, on Paul Solman’s The Business Desk webpage, point to the growing need to explore employer-provided skills-training like Apprenticeship and On-the-Job-Training (OJT) opportunities in more depth to address this issue.

Opinions between the two contributors differ slightly. Solman quotes Lerman as stating that: “We need trainable workers who can adapt to a changing economy, but are often faced with employers who will not bear the cost of employee training.” He believes that the responsibility resides within the government structure to at least take heed of the successes of the Apprenticeship and OJT programs from highly industrialized European nations and provide increased funding and support to companies and organizations who offer apprenticeships.

Ketchum’s tack is slightly different than that of Lerman. He believes that the onus resides with employers themselves and not on the government to prepare future workers for the workforce, stating: “why are companies convinced that government will or should solve their training needs?” He agrees that Apprenticeships are a potential solution, but his assertion is that “employers should take responsibility to develop and manage their own knowledge and skills.”

He proffers Professor Ron Jacobs’ principle of Structured On-The-Job Training (SOJT). He believes that SOJT, “a planned process of developing competence on units of work by having an experienced employee train a novice employee at the work setting or a location that closely resembles the work setting,” could provide the bridge between screen learning and OJT learning as a way to acquire requisite skills.

Opinions on “how” differ slightly; however, the tenor of both is that our youth are becoming increasingly disadvantaged when entering the workforce. Lacking the type of applicable Occupational Skills Training (OST) and/or “soft skills” development that employers can utilize, they are either hamstrung by the tertiary education price tag, lack of education (and/or job skills training), no prospects, or a combination of all of them.

Youth unemployment and underemployment is a workforce challenge on which KRA Corporation has focused its resources for many years through WIA-funded In-School and Out-of-School Youth Services Programs.  From New Jersey to South Carolina, KRA’s Youth Employability and Success (YES) Programs support youth education, training, and employment through an extensive mix of services: intensive case management; group/individual career counseling and planning; short-term pre-vocational services; and formal employability and work-maturity skills training.

Workplace-readiness services include interest, math, and reading assessments; GED preparation; soft-skills development; and job application and interviewing skills.  YES Programs recruit and partner with local public- and private-sector employers to develop jobs and/or specialized skills-development opportunities, including Apprenticeships, Community Work Experience, OJT, OST, and entrepreneurship training.  

KRA Corporation will continue to prepare our youth job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy and to supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.  (For a full line-up of Youth Services clients and programs, please go to:

Fed's Boost Demand-driven Skills Training

The push for demand-driven skills training continues to make news. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced the award of a further $474.5 million grant to a training program initiative that is aimed at boosting opportunities for U.S. workers, as well as bolstering the workforce’s future competitiveness.

The latest series of grants is a continuing countrywide attempt to use tertiary education facilities (community colleges and universities) to develop and expand innovative occupational skills training (OST) programs for those unemployed workers affected by foreign trade.

These programs, part of the multiyear Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program, are being developed in collaboration with area employers that represent industries of growth.

This round of funding is also earmarked to expand the partnerships, incorporating work-based training aimed at blending on-the-job training (OJT) with the types of practical application of skills that particular industries seek from workers.

The notion of targeted OJT is gaining increased attention from many quarters with experts like Robert Lerman and Robert Ketchum, PhD (which KRA Corporation highlighted in a recent post) insisting that OJT programs and apprenticeships should be more deeply explored by both government and employers alike in developing pertinent job skills.

The “ladder of opportunity” has been a recurring theme used by DOL’s Secretary, Tom Perez. While speaking about the grants to the Front Range Community College in Westminster, CO, he again stressed the importance of skills and training in helping to stimulate the economy.

He states: “Helping people acquire new skills and access new training programs allows them to climb ladders of opportunity to secure a foothold in the middle class. Building human capital in this way is one key way to accelerate the recovery and unleash the economy's full potential.”

Penny Pritzker, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, furthered the sentiment by insisting that workforce competitiveness will come from updated requisite skills, but that employer partnerships are an important part of program development success.

Secretary Pritzker stated: "For America's workforce to be competitive in the 21st century, our workers must possess the skills employers need for their businesses to succeed. That is why employers should partner with educational institutions and government to help develop curriculum and credentialing programs at the local level."

KRA Corporation is an active provider of demand-driven OJT and OST programs that meet specific employer- and labor-market needs, allowing our business customers to hire and train individuals, thus creating qualified workers for their own businesses and others in the community.  A few examples include:

  • The multi-site San Diego Metro Region One-Stop Career Center Program, funded through WIA, provides regional employers that have specific workforce requirements a full range of OJT and OST options.

  • The TANF Employment Program in Washington, DC, provides OST for customers in need of intensive job-readiness preparation to meet local labor-market demands.

  • The Waccamaw Region, SC, One-Stop Program, funded through WIA, adheres to a sector-driven strategy, targeting service businesses in high-growth industries, and tailoring OJT and OST services to the needs of employers in the Region.

  • The TANF-funded Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare Program, for which KRA is routinely recognized for its positive Work Participation Rate by FEP, the State’s Full Employment Program, is a customized OST operation under which employers define their workforce needs and KRA provides qualified candidates to participate in OJTs to meet those needs.

KRA Corporation remains steadfastly in favor of legislative, policy, and program creation that provide services targeted to the needs of our jobseeker-customers and the demands of our employer-customers, thereby enhancing jobseeker skills and widening employer access to a qualified, competitive labor pool.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Joint Effort by Labor and Commerce for Skill Development Necessary

The need to improve and strengthen effective job-skills training to help U.S. workers be more competitive has been a hot topic for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) of late.

A recent post in the Work in Progress (co-authored by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker) discussed a joint office visit to the Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) campus to hear from key employer and training stakeholders about the importance of skills training as both a workforce development and an economic development imperative.”

AACC has helped to coordinate efforts of numerous workforce entities to develop certificate programs aimed at arming workers with the training they will need to enter region-specific high-volume job openings.

These continued efforts on behalf of the workforce are an endeavor that KRA Corporation applauds. AACC’s initiatives in helping to further the scope of workforce development and creating opportunities to aid workers in entering into the workforce with the requisite skill set, is vital to future successes.

The burgeoning need to adopt new ideas and to look at potential alternatives to solving workforce issues is something that KRA Corporation recently highlighted in a post. It explores the opinions of two different viewpoints regarding the necessity for increased efforts by government and/or employers to start providing the type of training that will better allow employees to succeed while ensuring their companies’ successes.

The co-authored article mirrors this call to action, positing that greater involvement by business and industry is needed. It argues that employers should begin to bear the burden of skills development, too, stating: Because a skilled workforce directly impacts our ability to keep the economy growing and businesses strong, we need employers to be actively involved in skills development.”

The article calls for increased collaboration in skill development to speed up the ability to adapt to changing needs—a factor that suits both the employer’s and the employee’s better purposes—and increases the chance for each party’s future success.  Indeed, the article talked about the growing need for cooperation and joint initiatives between different federal departments to ensure that “every American has the skills needed to succeed in the workforce.”

KRA Corporation appreciates the foresight shown by the Laor and Commerce Departments in recognizing the need for skill development and their willingness to utilize resources to keep development progressing into the future as well as aiding workers to be competitive in a changing workforce environment.

With more than 30 years' experience in developing and implementing programs and initiatives, KRA Corporation understands the breadth and scale of the work and effort that goes into creating new opportunities. It is why we appreciate both the energy and the importance of these programs.  We hope for the successful implementation of these strategies and look forward to them improving the lives of individuals and strengthening the communities in which we live.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Labor Challenges on the Docket at AFL-CIO

KRA Corporation takes at look at how Labor Secretary Thomas Perez used his address at the AFL-CIO 27th Constitutional Convention in Los Angeles, CA to reiterate his position of advocating for the creation of a strong and unified workforce in his recent address while addressing some of the other issues facing his office.

During his speech, Secretary Perez expressed described the labor movement as “one of our greatest forces for middle-class economic security.” He posited that a functioning labor movement—something he believes “has come under withering attack in recent years”—has a concrete and real connection to a healthy middle class.

He also expressed the need for a “dynamic and empowered labor movement” as a vital component if the U.S.’s economy is to “grow from the middle.”

The Secretary’s vantage point is one that KRA Corporation fully appreciates and his impassioned “pursuit of basic fairness and opportunity for everyone” is something we continually work towards. We have advocated for all workers’ rights and have sought means—both through policy and practice—to create a level playing field for employees, employers, and their communities.

The Secretary, who has spent his career as a workplace and earning equality advocate,  also insisted that the  e U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a responsibility to build “ladders of opportunity with sturdy rungs that all people can reach.” He continued by insisting that developing and implementing of the types of competitive skills that benefit both employer and employee into the future are a necessity.

As an organization committed to improving the skills market and having worked towards providing the opportunities the Secretary speaks of to underserved and low-income populations, KRA Corporation is heartened to hear that our mission and the one Secretary Perez are in line with one another.

Another point the Secretary also reaffirmed was his view that Congress should raise the Federal minimum wage, stating: “hard-working people who put in 40 hours a week and take responsibility for themselves and their families should not live in poverty.”

KRA Corporation has highlighted this stance in a previous post and we see this as an important step toward equity in workforce development and employment to help improve the lives of individuals and strengthen communities.

Secretary Perez closed his speech by highlighting of the impending work and challenges of the DOL. Mentioning immigration reform, an equitable pay-scale for women, workplace safety, and protection of underserved communities, it is clear that he has set a high bar for his office. In facing his challenges, KRA Corporation and its dedicated team looks forward to working with the Secretary.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Self-Employment Assistance Grant Boost for Dislocated Workers Receive

KRA Corporation examines the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) recent award of a two-state Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program grants and how they stands to benefit Mississippi (through program implementation) and New York (by enhancing the existing program) respectively.

The additional funding for the SEA program was provided through the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. It effectively expanded to program to aid Dislocated Workers in their own job creation by allowing them to launch a small businesses while drawing a self-employed allowance in lieu of normal Unemployment Insurance.

The allowance (or the same weekly amount as the worker’s regular UI benefits) provides the buffer so that eligible program participants have the space and security to be able to get their own business off the ground thereby ensuring future full-time employment.

The grants of almost $2.5 million ($2,335, 270) are to be divided between Mississippi and New York. Mississippi will join Delaware, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island as an active SEA state, receiving $356,271 of the grant to start it up. The fund is has been earmarked to develop, implement, and administer a permanent program, identifying businesses, nonprofit and government organization partnerships.

Active SEA program state,  New York, will receive the lion share of the grant to enhance its existing program to: ” improve customer service and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operations by teaching participants how to complete applications, certifications, benchmark forms and surveys online.”

Helping Dislocated Workers re-enter the workforce featured frequently on the DOL’s to do list lately. A recent grant of $58 million in state infusion funds was passed to promote long-term unemployed Dislocated Workers training programs (which KRA Corporation highlighted in a recent post Getting Dislocated Workers Back to Work).

Eric M. Seleznow, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training foresees the move as being the passage for future job opportunities, too. He was quoted as saying that it would help “unemployed residents create their own jobs and eventually start hiring employees of their own,” as well as “form their own businesses while potentially boosting economic activity in the state.”

The importance of aiding Dislocated Workers is something that KRA Corporation fully appreciates. Offering critical services like trainings linking customers to job opportunities in their communities—which including both basic skills and occupational training skills—our WIA Adults/Dislocated Workers operations provide opportunities to Adult and Dislocated Workers.

The initiative taken by the DOL in trying a different tack regarding the UI program, is one that KRA Corporation applauds. These innovative attempt and others taken by individuals or groups that seek to utilize this opportunity to create their own enterprise and in doing so potentially help to generate economic growth, develop the workforce, and strengthen communities in those participating states is something we continue to support.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Self-Employment Assistance for Dislocated Workers

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced the award of a two-state grant of almost $2.5 million ($2,335, 270) to be divided between Mississippi and New York for the implementation and enhancement of Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) programs respectively.

With the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 expanding funding for the SEA program, Dislocated Workers receive a self-employed allowance, in lieu of normal Unemployment Insurance while creating their own jobs and small businesses. The benefit of the program is that the allowance (which is the same weekly amount as the worker's regular UI benefits) enables participants to turn launching their own business into a full-time job.

Mississippi, not currently enrolled in the SEA program, will receive $356,271 of the grant joining Delaware, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island as an active state. The fund is to be used in developing, implementing, and administering a permanent program in partnerships with businesses, nonprofits and government organizations.

New York, with an SEA program already in place, will receive the remainder of the grant money as an enhancement aid for the existing program, enabling the Empire state to—along with other upgrades—” improve customer service and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operations by teaching participants how to complete applications, certifications, benchmark forms and surveys online.”

The DOL has been active recently in attempting to get Dislocated Workers back into the workforce. They announced a $58 million state grant infusion to promote training for long-term unemployed Dislocated Workers (which KRA Corporation highlighted in a recent post Getting Dislocated Workers Back to Work).

The move is one that Acting Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, Eric M. Seleznow, foresees being the gateway for future job creation beyond those looking to create their own jobs. He was quoted as saying that it would help “unemployed residents create their own jobs and eventually start hiring employees of their own," as well as “form their own businesses while potentially boosting economic activity in the state."

KRA Corporation understands the importance of aiding Dislocated Workers. Our WIA Adults/Dislocated Workers operations provide vital services—including training services that link customers to job opportunities in their communities, including both basic skills and occupational training skills—to Adult and Dislocated Workers.

KRA Corporation applauds the DOL’s innovative attempt at infusing new direction into the UI program, and we support any of those individuals that seek to utilize this opportunity to create their own enterprise and in doing so potentially help to generate economic growth, develop the workforce, and strengthen communities in those participating states.



New Job Corp Opportunities Take Hold In New Hampshire

As an organization committed to improving all sectors of the workforce, KRA Corporation is pleased to learn that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is broadening the scope of its Job Corps program and is expanding into New Hampshire.

Frederick Douglass wrote that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” The Job Corps mission to "help young people ages 16 through 24 improve the quality of their lives through vocational and academic training" speaks to that sentiment through providing this low-income, at-risk group the education, skills, and confidence to succeed through application and hard work.

Through the official DOL blog, Work in Progress, Labor Secretary Tom Perez quite eloquently encapsulated the essence of Jobs Corps when he wrote: “Serving 60,000 young people a year and some 1.5 million over the life of the program, Job Corps embodies American values at their very best. It is living, breathing truth that no matter where you come from, if you work hard and apply yourself, if you are willing to learn and adapt, you can find a pathway to the middle class and capture your share of the American Dream.”

KRA Corporation has hands-on knowledge related to Job Corps operations, and is aware of the important role that work-based learning opportunities and on-the-job training play in developing workers and strengthening communites.  Our organization has been on the ground, providing Job Corps staff development and training services, as well as managing Job Corps centers to provide the type of workforce development support services that afford the best opportunities to our at-risk 16-24 year olds.

While working with the Employment and Training Administration, KRA Corporation designed, developed, and delivered School-to-Work Instructor Training for selected Job Corps instructional staff. We also provided technical, logistical, and research assistance services to promote the development of promising practices for Out-of-School Youth (OSY)/School-to-Work programming to rural and urban grantees.

KRA Corporation remains committed to furthering the training and employment opportunities of young workers, and actively develops the occupational skills and employability of this segment of our workforce through several WIA Youth Services Programs, serving both In-School and OSY populations.  In one of our previous posts, KRA highlighted the need for investment in youth services as it represents an alternative pathway to success for those that might not have access to the more traditional route.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

National Governors Association, Disabilities and the Workforce

KRA Corporation highlighted the growing debate around the issue of disabled individuals in the workforce in a previous post, and it has again been the subject of discussion at a high level this time at the 105th National Governors Association (NGA) in Milwaukee, WI.

Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker, touted the 3-day meeting as “an opportunity to share experiences and discuss critical issues facing our states” where “governors are focused on finding solutions to our most pressing challenges.” One of those “pressing challenges” was disabilities in the workforce and was highlighted through the initiative of the meeting’s Chair, Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

Looking at individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities and the employment challenges they encounter, the initiative—A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities“was designed to raise awareness about how the untapped talents of people with disabilities can contribute to a business’s bottom line.”

Markell, speaking on the National Governor's Association website, posited this about his initiative:

“Because government, business, the general public, individuals with disabilities and their families all stand to benefit from increased employment of people with disabilities, all have a role and shared responsibility in reaching this goal.”

Complete with A Blueprint for Governors, the Delaware governor’s initiative outlines practical and experiential-based directions for governors to adopt in advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

In Markell’s words, he believes that:

A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities looks at ways both state government and businesses can partner to bring opportunities to individuals with disabilities in the competitive labor market.”

Governor Markell said this In speaking about individuals with disabilities in the workforce: “We’re making strides on this front, but the work is far from over. I look forward to the discussions we’ll be having on this topic this weekend.”

We have had the privilege of assisting the Administration on Developmental Disabilities in numerous event management, information dissemination, and technical assistance initiatives, and KRA Corporation’s efforts on the Developmental Disabilities Program Resources Management Project culminated in the Secretary’s Outstanding Distinguished Services Award.

Governor Markell’s initiative and his assertion of “together, we can ensure that individuals with disabilities will have opportunities for a brighter future” is a position that KRA Corporation remains hopeful will garner the attention and support it is due and that the returning governors will employ some of his insights.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Department of Labor Stresses Right to Safety and Work-Life Balance

KRA Corporation looks at recent agreements between the DOL and two large corporations in separate policy compliance disputes.

Policy watchdogs are a vital component of ensuring the overall safety of U.S. workers and that get those types of protections beyond receiving a paycheck that help them return to their homes and families.

It is why KRA Corporation was heartened to see and applauds the Department of Labor (DOL) whose recent efforts regarding policy compliance settlements on behalf of the U.S. workforce came to fruition.

Two different DOL offices came to agreements with two large corporations—T.G.I. Fridays and Wal-Mart—whose practices were found in breach of separate policy compliances.

The DOL Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently announced that the restaurant chain T.G.I. Fridays, will change its leave policy when an investigation found the popular restaurant was in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Laura Fortman, WHD’s principal deputy administrator, stated: “Workers should not have to choose between their job, and the family members who need their care.” She added: “ensuring a work-life balance is the cornerstone of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which has been the law of the land for 20 years.”

Creating strong communities is at the base of our efforts to aid workforce development and the workers that make it up, so KRA Corporation understands the importance of a stable family unit and we applaud these agencies’ steps

The DOL was also instrumental in getting Walmart to agree to sign a corporate-wide settlement for a 2011 health and safety enforcement resolution. All 2,857 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores under Federal jurisdiction are affected with the settlement addressing specific safety and health conditions.

The settlement prompted Dr. David Michaels, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Assistant Secretary of Labor, to say: “We hope this sends a strong message that the law requires employers to provide safe working conditions, and OSHA will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that all employers follow the law.”

KRA Corporation trusts that these and future DOL actions regarding safety and health  are something that will promote and then sustain a culture of safety in the U.S. workforce. With what both employers and employees potentially lose, the issue of worker safety cannot be overly stressed.

The DOL’s efforts are proof that it remains watchful and continues to take its mandate of providing workers opportunities while protecting them. KRA Corporation remains supportive of these efforts for as long as they work toward the U.S. workforce’s safety and financial well being.