Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Employment and Economy: Positive Indicators Abound

Reuters recently pointed to June’s ratio of unemployed Americans to job openings (from the Department of Labor’s June figures in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Report) as being a positive indicator for both the U.S. economy and wage structures with job openings—measuring labor’s demand—enjoying a small boost to 3.907 million from its May figure of 3.936 million.

This ratio of roughly three jobseekers applying for each position is the lowest figure since October 2008, and is over half of the seven applicants per opening recorded in 2009. Some predict this could lead to stronger incomes as there is less competition with fewer individuals competing for the same or similar positions, thereby lessening the leverage companies have when setting wage structures.

Another potential positive sign for the U.S. economy and jobseekers that are keen on increased stability is the news reported in a separate Reuters report which points out that recorded layoff figures are approaching pre-recession numbers.

The reported 7.4% unemployment figure for July is the lowest it has been since December 2008. It is also the eleventh consecutive month that it has been sub-8% with claims for Unemployment Insurance now reportedly the lowest since November of 2007 (the DOL has registered that figure at 335,500).

Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, was quoted regarding the newest unemployment numbers as saying:

“This report is good news, and the economic turnaround over the past four years has been unmistakable. More Americans are finding work, but we can and must do more to pick up the pace of this recovery.”

The Huffington Post has reported that a large portion of the employment gains were as a result of low-wage workers increases. Temps, retail and restaurant workers were quoted as those employees who made up over half of the July’s added jobs.

Some sources claim that these gains may be modest, and that job creation continues to be difficult; however, KRA Corporation remains optimistic that these figures point to a strengthening economy and, as such, a plus for our efforts in workforce development.

KRA Corporation will continue to move forward using these positive economic and employment indicators. With more jobs becoming available and more joining the workforce, we will aim at maximizing the impact of these indicators to benefit and aid our jobseeker- and employer-customers alike.

The sad fact is, that despite all of the upswing in the news coming from the economy, the long-term unemployed (those jobless at 6 months or more) number is still a disappointing 4.2 million—a number that helps to double KRA Corporation’s resolve to help prepare jobseekers for tomorrow’s global economy and supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Disabilities in the Workforce Garners Increased Focus

Recent weeks has seen the subject of individuals with disabilities in the workforce drawing highlighted attention. The Federal government and, more specifically, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has been scrutinizing cases of high-profile violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The use of sub-minimum wages (as provided for in the Fair Labor Standards Act) and their use (and abuses) in the practice sheltered workshops—which has led to Rhode Island scrapping its practice—were the subject of a recent KRA Corporation Blog.

Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, recently spoke to issue of individuals with disabilities in a blog post. In it he stated:

“I’m not na├»ve about the challenges. As far as we’ve come, still only one in five people with disabilities are participating in the labor force at all. That’s not acceptable.”

And yet, organizations dedicated to equality for individuals with disabilities have been privy to recent reports that are disheartening. A 2013 State of the States in Developmental Disabilities report conducted by the University of Colorado alleged that the Federal government is spending less on individuals with developmental disabilities for the first time in a decade.

The unemployment figures that have recently be reported among individuals with disabilities is equally as disappointing. The 14.7% July figure is up 0.5% from the June percentage of 14.2%.

It is not all bad news. The recent markup and advancement of the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee offers some good news. In it, there is proposed legislation that pays increased attention to the requirements for sub-minimum wages earned among disabled individuals.

It, however, has seen a divided opinion amongst disability advocates with some factions in the disability community asserting that more needs to be done yet.

The difference in opinion hinges around Section 511. It proposes subminimum-wage job placement restrictions through imposing age requirements and levying job training services that would on the surface promote preparation for competitive employment.

However, Disability Scoop, a Developmental Disability news site, asserts that some disability advocates feel that:

the bill does little more than provide a checklist for vocational rehabilitation agencies that could ultimately put more individuals at risk for low-wage employment.”

Opportunity is something that all those who seek it should be fairly and equitably exposed to, and afforded to all those interested in becoming productive members of the U.S. workforce. This is something that KRA Corporation remains steadfastly committed to promoting.

KRA Corporation advocates for all sectors of the workforce, regardless of hurdles, impediments and limiting factors. Our on-the-ground initiatives and strategic approach to developing programs at a policy level helps the KRA Corporation team prepare workers for the U.S. workforce and, whenever possible, arms them with the skills to achieve full potential.

Monday, August 12, 2013

HELP Committee Offers Boost to Workforce Investment Act of 2013

Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, in a bi-partisan reauthorization effort to markup the proposed newest version of the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), recently convened to try and breathe new life into the 15-year-old bill.

It marked the second such attempt at a markup in two years. In 2011 the attempt failed to reach agreement among members; however, the recent meeting outcome on July 31 proved successful (in an 18-3 vote—with Senators Burr, Scott, and Roberts voting “no”) in advancing the bill.

The Workforce Investment Act’s (WIA) proposed changes look to address oversights and modernize the U.S. workforce development system, so as to streamline the means of providing support and improve upon the assistance to unemployed and low-income job seekers.

Opinions, as well reauthorization bids, have differed over the last year as the process of WIA reauthorization has progressed. KRA Corporation recently posted articles outlining the proposed changes to WIA legislation from both sides of the aisle in House Reauthorization bills (HR 798 and HR 803).

The committee’s swift decision has been welcomed by many that support of an update of current workforce development practices. Newly-appointed secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez was quick to praise the committee’s decision.

The secretary came out in support of the committee’s actions regarding the Workforce Investment Act markup in a recent news release saying:

“We applaud the U.S. Senate for taking a major step in that direction with the bipartisan approval by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of S. 1356, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013.”

In explaining his position, he said:

“We need a demand-driven approach to workforce development, one that responds to the needs of employers and prepares people for the jobs that are actually available. We need to align the workforce system with regional economies and establish a more integrated network of American Job Centers. We need to promote innovation and strengthen performance evaluation in the system, so consumers can get information about programs and services that work and taxpayers know we are spending their dollars wisely.”

CLASP, a Social Policy organization offered similar praise but in a blog post also posited that they felt there was more to be done. In the post Neil Ridley, writes:

“S. 1356 is a step forward, compared to current law, but there is still room for improvement” He later goes on to state: “As the Senate moves forward with reauthorization, additional safeguards should be put in place to ensure that adults with diverse needs for assistance have access to services in every local area.”

The senate committee’s rapid action heartens KRA Corporation and our team. It recognizes that there is a pressing need for a renewed approach to getting millions of Americans into the workforce by providing the education and skills to be competitive in the evolving employment marketplace.

KRA Corporation is committed to monitoring the legislation as it moves forward and we will continue to support the mission of Federal, state, and local agencies that are dedicated to this cause as we have since 1981.

KRA Corporation commends those law and policy makers whose dedicated efforts help to improve the lives of individuals and strengthen the communities in which we live.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

DOL Grant Help Homeless Female Vets and Vets with Families

In a move to provide important job training for homeless female Veterans and Veterans with families and set them up with the opportunity to successfully find civilian careers, the Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced they will be awarding grants equaling over $5 million.

The KRA team commends the efforts of those agencies involved in preparing our Veteran jobseekers for tomorrow’s global economy and providing the opportunity for a better life.

Under the department’s Homeless Female Veterans and Veterans with Families Program, the 22 separate grants represent a continuing commitment by the DOL to U.S. Veterans by helping them to gain the requisite skills necessary to rejoin the civilian workforce and secure employment.

According to estimates by the DOL Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), some 1,900 Veterans will benefit from this award. VETS “serves America’s Veterans and separating service members by preparing them for meaningful careers, providing employment resources and expertise, and protecting their employment rights.”

The DOL has indicated that the grants are earmarked for services that “include job placement, on-the-job and classroom training, career counseling, life skills and money management mentoring, as well as help in finding housing.”

Being able to demonstrate a track record of effective homeless Veteran program administration is the criteria for grantees receiving the award, with the funds being disbursed to state and local workforce investment boards, NPOs, local public agencies and faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs).

Tom Perez, Secretary of Labor, issued a statement regarding the purpose of the funds:

“These grants will offer the opportunity for a better life, providing the training and skills needed to find a job and housing. Our veterans have sacrificed for our nation, and job training programs offer them a path to participation in society and success in the workplace.”

KRA Corporation concurs with the Secretary’s sentiments. We feel that our Veterans are an important priority in public workforce policy, with only youth employment programming being more pressing.

As Veterans in the workforce advocates, KRA Corporation recently posted an article praising another joint initiative by the DOL and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program, which is designed to help eligible Veterans return to the civilian workforce.

KRA Corporation commends this new initiative, especially given the targeted Veteran group that these funds are serving. As always, we remain dedicated to developing workers and the workforce, and even more so those as deserving as our Veterans.

The successful implementation of this initiative is something that KRA Corporation looks forward to. We also look forward to watching it strengthen the communities in which we live.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

DOL Looks to Speed Up Re-employment in the Workforce

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) ia awarding over $65 million dollars aimed at help re-employed Unemployment Insurance (UI) beneficiaries more rapidly. The recently-announced grants are pointed at Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) programs to speed up the process of getting UI recipients back into the workforce.

The REA initiative, which has existed since 2005, is based on cost-effective and efficient administrative methods from previous research and finding. The multifaceted approach aims at ensuring claimants meet the state eligibility provisions as well as them being exposed to re-employment services (RES) like job search assistance and placement services.

The funds are earmarked to:

”provide UI beneficiaries with personalized, re-employment plans based on the claimant’s career interests and local labor market information. These assessments are done in-person and participants will receive referrals to re-employment services and/or training provided by the American Job Center.” (via DOL news release).

The reduction of improper payment occurrence is also made provision for by allowing for a UI claimant’s records review..

The findings of a 2011 study performed by Impaq International on the impact of the REA initiative in Nevada formed the basis of the DOL’s initiative. In it, it was determined that UI beneficiaries in the REA program left the program quicker than those that did not have access to the program. The result was lowered UI duration and, as a result, savings on the UI trust. The study also claimed: “It appears that providing REA and RES services by the same staff in a single interview may be a key factor that led to greater program impacts in Nevada.”

The program’s has reaffirmed its commitment to existing REA programs in the other states and territories, and expanded it to include funds for Delaware, Connecticut and the Virgin Islands.

KRA Corporation understands the importance of consistency and familiarity in aiding our customers to successfully navigate the options and steps available to them in re-joining the workforce. Our operation of One-Stop Career Centers (One-Stops), one of which is in Connecticut, puts us in contact with numerous job seekers (many of whom are WIA-eligible Adult/Dislocated Workers) and as a result we appreciate that as the UI circumstances of no two WIA customers are the same, individualizing our the approach to each of those job seekers becomes important.

The DOL’s continued efforts to address the national economic burden that unemployment poses is a commitment that KRA Corporation appreciates. The efforts of workforce development can only benefit from the use of targeted funds from models with proven outcomes, such as One-Stops and AJCs.

Through our extensive experience and expertise in comprehensive WIA Adult/Dislocated Workers, and WIA Youth Services programs, The KRA Corporation team will continue to support workforce development systems that combat the effects of unemployment on individuals and the communities in which they live.

Friday, August 9, 2013

KRA Corporation Welcomes DOL’s New Secretary

On July 23, 2013, Presidential nominee, Thomas E. Perez, was sworn into office as the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary. KRA Corporation extends a hearty congratulations and welcome to the nation’s 26th secretary.

Looking at Secretary Perez career prior to joining the DOL offers an impressive list of accomplishments. While serving as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the division enjoyed some noteworthy achievements. In his nearly 4 years at the DOJ, the division successfully implemented the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act; settled the largest fair-lending cases in history; worked to protect the rights of service members regarding employment, housing, and fair lending and drastically improved disabled Americans’ access to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

Prior to the DOJ, he was Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) Secretary. During his time there, Mr. Perez’s direct involvement was seminal in crafting a sweeping reform of state lending and foreclosure practices during Maryland’s foreclosure crisis.

He also turned his attention toward the workforce development system in Maryland. In attempting to better prepare 21st century jobseekers and provide them with the skill sets needed to succeed in the competitive economy, Mr. Perez worked in conjunction with community colleges, non-profit organizations, and businesses to overhaul the system so that both workers and employers would thrive.

Mr. Perez has spent his entire career in public service and was the Montgomery County Council’s first-ever elected Latino president, serving in this capacity in 2005. Additionally, he spent 12 years in Federal public service, mostly as a Civil Rights Division career attorney.

As Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under Attorney General Janet Reno, he oversaw initiatives designed to protect vulnerable workers while acting the chair of the inter-agency Worker Exploitation Task Force.

The late Senator Edward Kennedy also took advantage of his skill set, employing Mr. Perez as his special counsel. During the final two years of the Clinton administration, the secretary also served as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the official blog of the DOL, Work in Progress, one of the Secretary’s his first posts spoke of “protecting, promoting and expanding opportunity” with regard to those with disabilities in the workforce.

KRA Corporation welcomes the appointment of a progressive and ardent advocate of workforce development and workers’ rights. As an organization, we have impacted jobseekers and workforce development on the ground floor as well as in higher offices by supporting employment and training programs through conducting research, assisting in policy and program development, and providing technical assistance to Federal, state and local programs.

KRA Corporation looks forward to supporting Mr. Perez’s future employment, training, and workforce development initiatives as the Department of Labor moves forward under his direction.