Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Minimum Wage Stories in National News

KRA Corporation recently saluted President Obama’s call to Congress to raise the Federal minimum wage and also index it to reflect inflation. SInce our post, some interesting stories regarding the hotly contested issue of minimum wage have been reported.

One such story is a proposed city minimum wage hike by SeaTac, WA that would raise the wage of workers at the SeaTac Airport and surrounding hospitality businesses employees from $9.19 to $15 per hour.

Although the state of Washington boasts the highest state minimum wage in the U.S. ($9.19 per hour), if this proposal passes it would be the first case of a Washington city to enact its own minimum wage.

It is a proposal that Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association believed to be too broad of a measure and unsuccessfully took to court to try and delay it from reaching the City Council.

A similar situation regarding a “living wage” bill is playing out in Washington D.C. The Large Retailer Accountability Act is drawing some heat from large retailers in the nation’s capital.  Large retailers (defined as those with indoor-operated stores of 75,000 square feet with corporate parent sales of $1 billion) are targeted in this D.C. Council’s bill. If it is passed, workers’ minimum wages would go up to no lower than $11.75 (plus benefits). It also has a provision to annually index that wage to the local CPI.

According to an article in the Washington Post, representatives from Home Depot, Target, AutoZone, Lowe’s, Walgreens, and Macy’s have drafted a letter to the Mayor asking him to veto the bill, saying that they believe it to be “unfairly discriminatory.” Walmart has gone so far as to say that this bill’s passing could negatively impact plans for future stores in the area.

In Miami, the local NBC affiliate reported that Martin Kiar, Broward County's commissioner, and State Senator Dwight Bullard both agreed to live on minimum wage for a week. It was reported that the pair are in favor of a Federal minimum wage increase.

KRA Corporation applauds both of the representative’s efforts to draw attention to the plight of those currently living on minimum wage. We continue to be in favor of efforts geared toward employment-and-earning equality.

As always, the KRA Corporation will be an advocate for addressing inequitable unemployment practices. We will support organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for our workforce as well as the communities in which we live.

Workforce Development and Paying For Success: A Model for the Future

As part of a Department of Labor (DOL) news release in June, 2012 announcing the 26 recipients of Workforce Innovation Fund (WIF) grants, the DOL also mentioned an additional $20 million in WIF funding earmarked for the “Pay for Success” (PFS) model.

The PFS concept was distilled into one sentence by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB):  “Pay providers after they have demonstrated success, not based on the promise of success, as is done now.” The same OMB blog post goes on to describe it as “an innovative way of partnering with philanthropic and private sector investors to create incentives for service providers to deliver better outcomes at lower cost—producing the highest return on taxpayer investments.”  

The use of Social Impact Bonds (SIB) to capitalize social services has recently come into vogue being used in programs as far afield as the U.K. and Australia, and as close as New York. The bonds essentially create a social investment market. In the PFS model, independent investors (both private and philanthropic) inject the initial capital to cover operational costs which then makes the stakeholders eligible for a return on their investment.

Measurable outcomes represent the bedrock of programmatic successes or short fallings, so grants include independent parties that then track and assess programs. Reaching goals and attaining agreed upon results is what prompts any committed funds from the partnering government agency.

Initiatives enhancing the capacity of an agency to further workforce development and so better serve all jobseekers is something that KRA Corporation welcomes. Progressive and proactive initiatives aimed at positively impacting unemployment in the U.S. is something we applaud.

The PFS system does have its critics. Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Jon Pratt, has called for a cautious approach to the implementing of SIBs in Nonprofit Quarterly, quoting Campbell’s Law: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

This does represent “a new way of doing business” and as such does have some risks. Some of the PFS risk tradeoffs were dissected by authors Kristin Giantris and Bill Pinakiewicz in a Nonprofit Finance Fund review. They assert that high-performing service providers, through sharing their experiences as “program intermediaries,” can mitigate the risk and “develop the pipeline” for newer providers, and so increase the probability of future successes of PFS providers

With our more than 30 years of experience in workforce development, KRA Corporation is fortunate to have been of service to dozens of public- and private-sector agencies and organizations whose programs support effective workforce services systems.  Dedicated to remaining on the cutting edge of evolving workforce development services, the KRA Corporation looks forward to following the progress of this new PFS program model.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The U.S. Workforce and the Federal Minimum Wage Increase

For 32 years, KRA Corporation has provided both management consulting and program operations services in the “education, employment, and training” milieu.  In accomplishing our mission of developing workers and strengthening communities, the KRA team has created and implemented innovative workforce development programs across the country in support of Federal, State, and local agencies who remain committed to improving the lives of individuals through employment.

The sad fact, however, is that sometimes having a job simply isn’t enough. The annual income of a U.S. full-time worker employed at the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is $14,500—which translates to many families living below the poverty line.

A situation that prompted KRA Corporation to salute President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, wherein he called on Congress, to increase the Federal minimum wage from its current rate sub-$8 per hour rate to $9.00 per hour.

The additional provision that seeks to index the minimum wage to inflation on a permanent basis is equally as important as this proposed wage hike itself. Even as the cost-of-living continually rises, re-indexing is something that previous increases have failed to account for.

The Fair Labor Standards Act set up the provision for the Federal minimum wage in 1938. Since then, it has seen 22 raises. This raise, if ratified by Congress, is estimated to impact 15 million low-income workers. KRA has long been an advocate of improving the conditions for workforce development, and as such, we applaud legislation that mirrors our ethos.

A satisfied worker is the basis for a better working environment. It is something that Acting Secratary of Labor reflect on in the official blog of the U.S. Department of Labor, Work in Progress. He posits that increased wages will positively affect morale, stabilize the workforce, and reduce turnover.

Raising the minimum wage and the effects is will have is always grounds for debate. The Department of Labor’s minimum wage website takes a run at addressing what it labels as “myths” that have grown around a minimum wage increase and the effects on—among other things—the economy, businesses, and others’ jobs.

A minimum wage increase helps to make the job market more attractive to those entering it as lower wage structure employees. Economists and corporations (like Costco) have both mentioned the by-product of increased productivity and how it represents a direct benefit to businesses. As this can only benefit both our jobseeker- and business customers, KRA Corporation invites this increase as a complement to the work that we do.

The KRA team values the work done by the Federal government, especially when it targets improving the quality of life for the workforce and as a result, the communities in which we live, and we will continue our mission to mitigate unemployment in the U.S.

DOL Moves to Get Dislocated Workers Back into Workforce

In a concerted effort to help Dislocated Workers rejoin the U.S. workforce, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a $58 million infusion of state grant money. It is aimed at expanding training that will aid qualifying workers earn industry-recognized credentials.

Dislocated Workers are those defined by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) as: “individuals who have been laid off or terminated, have received official notice of termination or layoff, and are eligible for or have exhausted Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in a news release that 6.1 million workers had been dislocated from their jobs between January 2009 and December 2011*. The number rose sharply when long- and short-tenured (less than 3 years) workers were combined (to 12.9 million).

The newest DOL grants “will support on-the-job training, customized training, registered apprenticeships and other approaches that connect individuals with employers, with a focus on providing these services to those in long spells of unemployment.”

These discretionary funds are to be provided as a one-time grant through the Dislocated Worker Training National Emergency Grants (NEG), emphasizing training efforts for unemployed workers out of the workforce for 27 weeks or more as well as those whose Unemployment Insurance benefits are set to expire.

Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris had this to say about the initiative: “These federal funds will strengthen the capacity of the states’ workforce investment systems to deliver critical work-based learning and training to thousands of unemployed Americans.”

Thirty states applied for the funding, meeting the guideline criteria. Of those recipients, Texas was awarded $4,428,052 (the highest amount) and South Dakota, at $418,000, was given the smallest state grant.

NEG Programs are an integral part of aiding this unemployed group regain employment and KRA Corporation’s own successful WIA-funded Adult/Dislocated Worker programs, that are being implemented across the country, have been instrumental in this helping the plight of dislocated workers.

KRA Corporation welcomes the DOL’s efforts to strengthen the national economy by reinvesting in the long-term unemployed. In furnishing these funds, the DOL confirms its recognition of the negative economic impact that layoffs (presumed to be temporary) and terminations (permanent) have on the dislocated worker, his/her family, and the community.

The KRA team believes that this targeted effort will be extremely helpful in supporting a sector of the unemployed population who have the ability but lack only the opportunity—and whose predicament was beyond their control—to re-enter the workforce.

*This figure related long-tenured employees ie those workers who had held the job for at least 3 years.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Employment Opportunities for Veterans through Registered Apprenticeship Program

In a recent 2-day conference, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) hosted the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. Leaning on the experience of leaders in the military, government, training providers, and veteran service organizations it focused on strategies to increase veterans’ participation in the Registered Apprenticeship Program.

Aimed at providing workers with skills from in-demand sectors, the Program was created in 1937. In order to suit a particular industry, like plumbing, the on-the-job training (OJT) and technical instruction are tailored accordingly. Some 250,000 employers in 1,000 careers across the country are included in the Program’s network.

The Program has proven to be an effective and important tool in reintegrating veterans back into the civilian workforce, and according to a recent DOL study, Program graduates enjoy increased lifetime earnings by upwards of $250 million.

The Program (in which an estimated 25,000 veterans are participants) provides the bridge between military training and a civilian job by offering the requisite training and credentials necessary to compete in the job market.

KRA Corporation supports the creation of all viable and sustainable models for transitioning our service members back into the domestic workforce. We feel that it is as important to identify and promote programs that will potentially lead to successful employment for those service men and women about to leave active duty, as it is for those who have already served.

KRA believes and has spoken to the importance of OJT as a crucial means of helping workers on the path to success. Additionally, it is an important component of ensuring an industry’s overall health. In contributing to that belief, the KRA team provides Customized Training Services that cater to particular employer needs across numerous programs.

DOL’s forward thinking efforts on behalf of returning servicemen and women, as well as the progressive solutions and strategies to potentially diminish this issue of unemployment amongst military personnel re-entering civilian life, is something that KRA applauds.

We welcome the return of our military and look forward to assisting our veterans in rejoining the workforce as best we can.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

KRA Corporation’s Haynes Recognized by KRA/VIEW Client

A KRA Corporation employee and Lead Instructor for the KRA/VIEW program serving TANF recipients in Norfolk, Virginia was recently recognized for her national accomplishment in the official newsletter of the Norfolk Department of Human Services.

In their June 30, 2013 issue of Have You Heard, the NDHS—for which KRA operates the Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare (VIEW)—ran the headline “National Customer Service Award Goes to KRA/VIEW‘s Tiffany Haynes.”

In recognizing the Jodie Spiegel Enhancement of Customer Service Award bestowed on the Instructor Supervisor for the KRA/VIEW Job Readiness Program (JRP) at this year’s National Association of Workforce Development Professionals conference, the article was full of praise for her abilities stating: “She has exhibited distinct customer-service skills and abilities, building relationships that reflect a true advocacy for the workforce development profession.”

The article also went on to pay tribute to Haynes’ contributions saying: “Under Ms. Haynes’ leadership, the JRP’s reputation as a rather formal job-skills training program has been transformed and re-born as a holistic learning experience, fueled by Ms. Haynes’ positive synergy, superb customer service, and engaging instructional style. Ms. Haynes exhibits leadership qualities in managing the class-room environment, coalescing community resources, and creating innovative instructional programs.”

Haynes, who wears many hats, serving as the Corporate Coordinator for KRA’s 4th Annual Community Care Day Campaign (CCDC), Support Our Troops and now as coordinator the 2013 CCDC initiative, Support Our Local Hospitals, had this to say about her recognition: “I was really excited—and appreciative—when I saw the article!  I consider it a true honor that our client, NDHS, chose to include me in their newsletter.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

KRA Corporation Explores the Effects of Unemployment

Seeking employment, but still jobless, some 11.8 million Americans are unemployed according to May 2013 DOL Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures. Ordinarily, these BLS numbers exclude unemployed individuals who are not actively job-hunting. There are a host of reasons that are noted on numerous reports. Becoming discouraged is one. Unsuccessful jobseekers often simply just give up in their job search.

Money—or more specifically the absence of it—is a large source of stress, even to the point of being disabling. The American Psychological Association records in Psychological Effects of Unemployment and Underemployment:

“The current state of the economy continues to be an enormous stressor for Americans, with 78 percent reporting money as a significant source of stress.  Unemployed workers are twice as likely as their employed counterparts to experience psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, low subjective well-being and poor self-esteem.”

And as much as unemployment afflicts individuals it does families, too. The Psychological Consequences of Unemployment, published by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), has this to say:

“Job loss is associated with elevated rates of mental and physical health problems, increases in mortality rates, and detrimental changes in family relationships and in the psychological well-being of spouses and children. Compared to stably employed workers, those who have lost their jobs have significantly poorer mental health, lower life satisfaction, less marital or family satisfaction, and poorer subjective physical health.”

And then there is the community, too. According to SPSSI:

“The impact of unemployment extends beyond individuals and families to communities and neighborhoods. High unemployment and poverty go hand in hand, and the characteristics of poor neighborhoods amplify the impact of unemployment.  Inadequate and low-quality housing, underfunded schools, few recreational activities, restricted access to services and public transportation, limited opportunities for employment – all characteristics of poor neighborhoods – contribute to the social, economic, and political exclusion of individuals and communities, making it more difficult for people to return to work.”

The effects of unemployment, the negative impact on people, families, communities, and the economic infrastructure of a region, is a reality that KRA Corporation witnesses on a daily basis.  This is why KRA remains committed to undoing unemployment’s devastating effects of  by undoing unemployment.  Our country-wide Workforce Development programs impact those individuals and families, and—through a positive domino effect—the communities in which they live and work each and every year.

From the North East to Southern California, KRA Corporation-operated One-Stop Career Centers provide necessary career counseling; education and training programs (leading to Associate degrees, certification, and/or special licensure); and job development, placement, and retention services benefiting jobseeker- and business-customers alike. These programs are tailored for WIA-eligible Adult and Dislocated Workers, as well as In-School and Out-of-School Youth.

Additionally, for those jobseekers with minimal or no work history pursuing independence from various TANF public assistance programs, KRA programs offer volunteer and community work experience opportunities—opportunities which often result in sustainable employment; career guidance. GED preparation, job-readiness workshops, and direct job-placement services are other facets of the these programs. KRA Corporation is proud to report that the Norfolk's “Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare” (VIEW) program consistently achieves Virginia’s highest Work Participation Rate.

The “simple” act of finding a job—becoming meaningfully employed and earning a sustainable wage—has a powerful impact beyond the individual, trickling down to families and communities alike. KRA contributes to the lessening of the effects of unemployment by developing workers and strengthening communities—one individual at a time.

KRA Corporation Enjoys Prominent Place on NAWDP Website

This year’s 2013 National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) Conference in Minneapolis, MN, Putting America to Work, saw KRA Corporation enjoy the lion share of representation (with more than 25 corporate- and program-level executives, managers, and staff from California to Connecticut) as well as space on the conference website.

Held May 19 – 22, the NAWDP post-conference webpage regarding the event stated, “Over 90 breakout workshops, three plenary, two super sessions and two deep dive sessions were featured.”

The Conference’s Opening Session video, produced by KRA Corporation Trainer & Subject Matter Expert from KRA/CTWorksOne-Stop Centers in Hartford, Joseph Seymour, was well received and the subject of hearty thanks from NAWDP on the conference page.

Designing and conducting one of the workshops—Presentation Skills for Workforce Development Professionals—Seymour went a step further to provide valuable tips and techniques for “powering” PowerPoint presentations back up.

The only Gold-Level Sponsor, KRA Corporation was extremely active in Conference activities. Two engaged KRA team members were also recognized on the website for their contributions to social media as the second and third place winners of the twitterfeed award which the site recognized as a way to “sharpen their tweeting skills by communicating key points and lessons learned in the workshops.”

Stating, “Twitterfeed a Success!”  Maxine Suka, KRA Corporation Program Manager for the multi-site San Diego Metro Region One-Stop Career Center Program, took second place while Diana Wong—KRA Training Account Coordinator at the same program—was third.

Wong was also on hand to co-present a workshop—Case Management: Staff, Clients and LinkedIn? Oh My!—with KRA Social Media Coordinator & Trainer, Juliana Castillo, presenting an innovative approach to case management using businesses’ and professionals’ number one social media networking site.

Featuring a “THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS…Gold Level Sponsorship…KRA – Developing Workers. Strengthening Communities” on the conference page, the “Get Recognized” page also recognizes the KRA Corporation employees who received two of the four annual NAWDP honors.

Tiffany Haynes, Instructor, KRA/VIEW Program, Norfolk, VA, received the Jodi Spiegel Enhancement of Customer Service Award, while KRA Coordinator of Staff Development and Core Services, KRA/CTWorks’ Beth McCabe, CWDP, accepted the Professional Development Award.

McCabe also co-presented Location, Location, Location: Meet Customers Where They Are with Julie Watson, Director of Program Operations, Capital Workforce Partners (North Central CT WIB and KRA/CTWorks client) and Kellie O’Donnell, Senior Public Service Librarian and Manager of Job and Career Services, Hartford Public Library (KRA/CTWorks partner). The presentation explored an avant-garde national model for delivering workforce services in collaborative relationships with local library systems.

Chair of the NAWDP Board of Directors and Senior Vice President for KRA Workforce Operations, Don Scott, concluded:

“On behalf of KRA, I want to thank NAWDP for its acknowledgment of our contributions to the success of the 2013 Annual Conference.  KRA is proud to be a long-standing member and supporter of NAWDP’s mission as the national voice for our profession, effectively meeting the professional development needs of our membership.  Kim Staley, our Vice President and Director of Client Services, just this month was re-elected to the Board as the Director for the state of Connecticut, and together we will continue to advocate for NAWDP in advancing the goals, objectives, and  interests of its members, as well as the entire workforce development industry.”

KRA Corporation/Camden Staff Honored by Mayors Youth Council

In a recent Honoree’s Reception held at Camden County Community College, two of KRA Corporation’s staff members—Anita Williams Davis and Indiya Frazier—were recognized for their outstanding contributions by the Camden City Mayors Youth Council (MYC)*.

Davis, a KRA Corporation Program Manager, was the recipient of no less than two Certificates of Recognition for Corporate Leadership in acknowledgment of both her personal and professional accomplishments and services provided to the Camden, New Jersey community. The first of her awards came from the MYC, while the second was bestowed by the Camden County Board of Freeholders.

KRA Corporation Outreach Specialist, Frazier, was honored with the MYC’s Young Adult Achievement award, awarded to those who inspire peers and youth to volunteer, who consistently perform acts of kindness, and who are committed to community initiatives.

Davis, who serves on the Education and Employment Committee for the MYC, joined the organization in 2010. As one of KRA’s foremost experts on workforce development programs serving jobseekers with limited or no work experience, she directs the operations of a multi-service TANF and WIA training and job-placement program for youth and adults, the Job Skills Training Directly Related to Employment Program**,

Joining the KRA team as an OSY Career Agent, Frazier moved into an Outreach Specialist position, where she works with GA and TANF customers, as well as youth enrolled in WIA/OSY.  An MYC member since 2011, Frazier’s experience and expertise are utilized on three MYC Committees: Health and Government, Performing Arts and Educational Training.

KRA Corporation President & CEO, Knowlton R. Atterbeary, commented:

“We are extremely proud of Ms. Davis’ and Ms. Frazier’s accomplishments and recognition.  It’s important to note that they are not required to devote their valuable time and energy to the MYC; they volunteer for this worthy organization that provides Camden’s young people with an active role in addressing issues that affect them.  All of KRA congratulates Anita and Indiya on their dedication to community involvement and service on behalf of Camden’s young people.”

*Since 2008, the City of Camden has sponsored the MYC, which convenes twice a month to participate in committee meetings, team-building trainings, leadership seminars, and public-speaking workshops. During the summer, the MYC researches youth programs available in Camden neighborhoods and conducts a survey of their peers to identify important issues affecting the City’s youth. Throughout the school year, they meet with each other, as well as local youth organizations, to discuss the issues identified from their survey. Mayor Redd meets with the Council to listen and respond to their issues and regularly invites the Police Commissioner, Human Services Chief, and School Superintendent to be part of these meetings so they can address issues immediately.

**KRA/Camden serves four distinct jobseeker populations.  Area businesses benefit greatly, as candidates from all four programs receive training, pre-screening, referral, and follow-up services based on the requirements of individual employers.  For TANF recipients, the (1) Community Work Experience/Job Skills Training Program (CWEP/JST) provides assessment, career coaching, job-readiness/life-skills training, community-based work experience, and job-placement and services.  The (2) General Assistance Program (GA) provides the same services as CWEP/JST, but for individuals who do not have children in their care.  For young customers not enrolled in a school, the 3) Youth Employability and Success Program provides GED preparation, as well as training and certification in Microsoft Digital Literacy and Hospitality Services.  The (4) Open Entry Program serves jobseekers who have been sanctioned for previous non-compliance with TANF rules and regulations.

KRA Corporation Volunteer Staff Help Make Adult Education Seminar Successful

Recently  in the town of Vernon, about 15 miles east of Hartford, the Vernon Regional Adult Based Education (VRABE) Department hosted a Job-Search Skills Development Seminar, the first of its kind for the region.

The 12 adult students attendees were treated to three training sessions, two of which were presented by KRA Business Services Representatives from KRA/CTWorks One-Stop Centers, North Central Connecticut Region Charles Botts, III and Myrna Fienman.

Focusing on Professional Attire and Interviewing Techniques, Fienman’s interactive session invited small groups of students to tackle commonly asked questions, practicing their responses, and also discussed the do’s and dont’s of dressing for interviews.

Fienman followed the group activity by providing useful information on the types of interviews they might encounter, and her thoughts on how best to respond to some of the more challenging questions

Fienman remarked, “The group was very engaged and interacted throughout the entire morning. They asked really good, focused questions of the facilitators and were taking a lot of notes.”

Botts, a Certified Workforce Development Professional and Certified Professional Resume Writer, presented the latest Tools and Techniques for Writing a First-Class Resume. Stressing the five essential sections of an effective résumé, and the required information for each section, Botts also discussed the  importance and value of including accomplishments. In wrapping his workshop up, he offered an overview of the use and effectiveness of LinkedIn as a tool to develop a “virtual” résumé.

The workshop had an almost immediate impact with students relaying how they would amend their job-search strategies based on the information and tips they received during the workshops. The KRA team of Fienman and Botts provided another layer by providing information on KRA/CTWorks as well as the additional job-search and work-readiness services offered through the One Stops.

Jim Sendrak and Christine Vincent, the VRABE Seminar organizers, said this of Botts and Fienman’s workshops:
“Participant feedback was extremely positive! Your presentations were right on and professional.  It appeared that the class paid close attention to everything you had to say. Everyone was so pleased with the turnout and the way it all came together. We look forward to repeating the event in the near future.”