Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ready to Work Program Aims at Getting Long-term Unemployed into Skilled Positions

One of the critical questions posed by the current administration is: “How do we equip our workers with the skills needed to do the jobs of the 21st Century?” In an attempt to answer this question, while simultaneously addressing long-term unemployment, the Department of Labor (DOL) has made $150 million in competitive grants available to the Ready to Work Partnership.

Financed through fees paid to the H1-B nonimmigrant visa program, amounts of between $3million and $10 million are expected to be awarded to applicants (expected to range from 20 to 30) whose high-performing partnerships:

  • focus      on long-term unemployed worker re-employment

  • incorporate      work-based training—On-the-Job Training, paid work experience, paid      internships, and registered apprenticeships

  • involve      strong employer engagement (with program design support) and who commit to      consider hiring qualified program participants

Employer engagement and private sector involvement is a vital component of skill preparedness in the workplace. It is something that DOL Secretary Perez spoke to in his remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors and something that is drawing increasing focus from the DOL and the current administration, especially in high-demand industries.

It is these “innovative partnerships between employers, nonprofit organizations and America's public workforce system” that the Ready to Work Partnership grant is looking to award, support and scale. One of the existing caveats being that any grant applicant have three employers or a regional industry association involved in the project.

Ultimately, the grants are geared toward helping long-term unemployed workers achieve “earn while you learn” pathways to re-employment opportunities into middle- and high-skill jobs, while at the same time providing industries a pipeline of workers whose are skills tailored to fit needs.

Providing workers the requisite skills to be successful and competitive while allowing them to earn a living at the same time is a solid foundation for boosting productivity and morale while reducing turnover, making for an overall more profitable and streamlined endeavor.

KRA Corporation was also pleased to see that, similar to the Platform to Employment Program that the firm will be implementing in the Northcentral Region of Connecticut, part of the requirements for consideration calls for the incorporation of strategies that provide additional resources like assessments, job-placement assistance, training, mentoring, and other supportive services (such as financial counseling and behavioral health counseling).

KRA Corporation endorses those initiatives specifically designed to help address the skills imbalance while providing long-term unemployed workers the means to be successfully integrated back into the workforce.  We have spent more than 3 decades staying on the cutting edge of workforce development practices and programs so that we remain fully equipped to prepare job seekers for tomorrow’s global economy while supplying employers with a trained and reliable workforce.

KRA Corporation remains committed to this mission and looks forward to this grant program successfully boosting the economy while investing in its most valuable resource—the U.S. worker.




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Minimum Wage Hike Set to Boost Federal Contract Workers Income

Recently, the minimum wage for Federal contractors was raised to $10.10/hour by an Executive Order issued by President Obama. The wage increase, slated to take effect on January 1, 2015, is expected to affect hundreds of thousands of contract workers currently receiving minimum wage.  

KRA Corporation salutes the President’s commitment to his word in trying to encourage equity-in-pay in the U.S. workforce. We hope that this acts as a spur to the Federal minimum wage debate as well as impacting workforce development in a positive way.

The minimum wage will then be adjusted annually by the Secretary of Labor based on the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

In his remarks regarding the wage increase, Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez, said, “The president believes the federal government should lead by example as a model employer, joining so many private businesses that have recognized that paying a fair wage is both the right thing and the smart thing to do.”

The move has drawn criticism from some quarters. The belief is that this will stymie hiring practices instead of promoting them, and that the actual number of people the move will benefit is far less than reported as it only affects new contracts.

However, supporters point to studies that have shown that raising low wages has a positive impact on morale, reduces employee turnover and absenteeism (thereby reducing costs) while boosting overall productivity.  

Just how constitutional the Executive Order is has come under scrutiny from the Supreme Court. Bypassing Congress, the court determined that the President’s “power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter.” It is not something, however, that will unlikely lead to the President rescinding the order.

This Executive Order represents a definitive statement of intent that his administration is committed to improving the overall situation of the U.S. workforce at a building block level and is willing to lead by example.

As an organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and strengthening our communities through our innovative workforce development programs, KRA Corporation applauds this move which raises the standard of living for Federal contract workers while offering incentive to our current job seekers.

KRA Corporation is heartened to see the President making good on promises he made during his State of the Union address and we hope that this continues to be a “year of action” in his initiatives for the U.S. workforce.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Veterans Get Added Boost from DOL, Construction Industry

KRA Corporation has long maintained that veterans are one of the most important groups contributing to the U.S. workforce. With knowledge, skills, and abilities developed both before and during their service to our country, most possess the necessary assets to succeed in the workplace.  It is why a recent KRA
  highlighting the reported number of unemployed, homeless, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients among our veterans was so alarming.

It is also why the recent announcements regarding veteran employment and reintegration services from the construction industry and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program respectively draws the highest praise from our organization.

At a recent symposium hosted by the Department of Labor (DOL) and Joining Forces, it was made public that a coalition of more than 100 construction companies have committed to hiring more than 100,000 veterans over the next 5 years.

The construction industry is expected to add 1.5 million jobs by 2022, making it one of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ fastest-growing industries, and ideal to lead the veteran employment charge.

The Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, reiterated the DOL’s commitment to veteran employment saying, “The Department of Labor will do whatever it takes to help our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs" adding, “All men and women who have sacrificed for our country in our armed services deserve opportunities for good jobs worthy of their character and their achievements."

First Lady, Michelle Obama, who co-launched Joining Forces, praised this move in a post saying the pledge is “not just because it's the patriotic thing to do, and not just because they want to repay our veterans for their service to our country, but because they know that it's the smart thing to do for their business."

In addition, the DOL has announced grants totaling $900,000, which will fund services provided by the Veterans' Employment and Training Service to “help local partners provide essential services to those who have served in America's armed forces that will ease their transition to civilian life.”

The two grants of $450,000 each have been awarded to Advocates for Human Potential Inc. and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, and will augment the delivery systems for existing HVRP grant services including those for homeless veterans with families and female veterans.

KRA Corporation believes that---along with youth-employment programming and relief for the long-term unemployed, which many times includes veterans, our ex-armed services personnel are among the most important target populations in need of assistance to get their lives back on track.  Therefore, we are heartened to see that the DOL’s commitment to improving the plight of U.S. veterans, who have served our country so valiantly, remains consistent.

KRA Corporation commends the efforts of all agencies and organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of our veterans. We remain committed to strengthening the communities in which we live by preparing our veterans and all job seekers for today’s global economy.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

Platform to Employment Program Gets CT State Funding

KRA Corporation was pleased to learn last week that the Platform to Employment (P2E) Program received a boost with Connecticut (CT) Governor Dannel Malloy proposing to dedicate $3.6 million to create a statewide P2E initiative.  This action represents the first full-state commitment to the Program, as well as the first public dedicated dollars.

We were especially pleased to learn this week that KRA will be implementing the P2E Program in CT’s Northcentral Region through CTWorks, funded by Capital Workforce Partners, one of the State’s five Workforce Investment Boards (WIB).  Based in Hartford, this 37-town, multi-site program includes a One-Stop Career Center operation---a partner-program in the American Job Center system---for WIA-eligible Adult/Dislocated Workers, as well as a TANF-funded Jobs First Employment Services Program.

The CT P2E partnership, including the State’s five WIBS, with guidance from the CT Department of Labor, would seek to utilize elements of the successful program to get some 500 long-term unemployed (LTU) residents back into full-time employment.

Targeting those LTU jobseekers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, P2E provides a 5-week intensive job-preparation program, access to behavioral health services, financial coaching, and then an 8-week subsidized employment internship.  The original P2E pilot program, tested in CT’s Southwestern Region, under the auspices of The Workplace, the WIB for the Region, demonstrated that 8 out of 10 subsidized internships placements resulted in full-time jobs!

More than simply job training, the wraparound approach offered by P2E gives those who have been out of the workforce for an extended period of time a more comprehensive chance at adapting to the rigors of the job-seeking environment—one that transcends simple job preparedness, providing them with tools, the foot in the door, and renewed confidence to be successful in and out of the workplace.

Aimed at Veterans 30 years of age or younger and individuals 50 years of age or older, the P2E initiative was funded by the Wal-Mart Foundation, Citi Community Development, and the AARP Foundation through The Workforce.  The success of the first pilot, demonstrating an impressive 80% unsubsidized job-placement rate, prompted the funding of 10 additional P2E pilots across the country, one of which was implemented by KRA Corporation under the auspices of the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP).

As the operator of the San Diego Metro Region America’s Job Centers of California program, for the SDWP, the P2E pilot implemented by KRA experienced an unsubsidized job-placement rate similar to that of the original CT pilot.

KRA Corporation is proud to have been a part of this ground-breaking initiative to support our LTU jobseekers, and  was pleased to have reported several customer success stories.  Now, we are eager to implement the P2E Program in Northcentral CT, assisting a selected number of those 500 LTU jobseekers in getting their careers and lives back on track.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Workforce Dropout Rate a Source of Concern

Lawmakers continue to be gridlocked over the future of long-term benefits and the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, the need for which underscores how dire the labor market currently is.

Another indicator of that fact is the continued increase in the number of “workforce dropouts”…unemployed workers who simply cease the job search…a figure that has been reported at 550,000 in the last year.

KRA Corporation explored the Workforce Participation Rate in a previous post, noting the increase in workforce dropouts, as well as the impact on themselves and the workforce itself.

The WPR, a metric that looks at those working and job seeking, is currently at a 36-year low. This fact is a source of concern for some economists who believe this figure is a more accurate indicator, than the unemployment rate, of long-term economic health. It also means a smaller portion of the populace will be fueling the economy.

A Wall Street Journal posting from last April highlighted the alarming numbers of workers who simply gave up looking for employment, stressing that it was a source of concern as returning to the workforce for many of those that have stopped searching will be increasingly difficult the longer they stay unemployed, and those that do return could do so at a lesser wage structure.

More disheartening about the shrinkage in the size of the US Labor force is that it seems young workers are deciding to drop out in increasing numbers.

The same Wall Street Journal article claims that nearly half of the dropouts in the March rate were under the age of 25. These missed career and development opportunities could have a direct impact on earning potential later.

KRA Corporation is a firm believer that the youth (16-24) we serve are an essential factor in strengthening the workforce and helping the economy, while also strengthening communities. It is why we are so committed to our WIA Youth Services to aid them in becoming part of the workforce.

KRA Corporation has devoted more than 3 decades to diminishing the many effects of unemployment through our workforce development services, and will strive to reach out to those dubbed workforce dropouts.  By providing these disenchanted workers with the knowledge and skills to re-energize them in renewing their desire to rejoin the workforce they, their local communities and the overall economy will benefit.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Unemployment Benefits Extension Stalls in the Senate

KRA Corporation looks at the most recent development in the Senate regarding the extension of long-term emergency unemployment benefits.

What looked like a promising inroad to the extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefit that expired at the end of last year, was dealt a significant blow by the Senate minority last week.

Two separate procedural votes aimed at extending the current EUC program failed to make it past the 60-vote threshold. The first vote on the docket was a proposed amendment by Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, that would extend the benefit program until November which would be funded by an extension of sequester cuts until 2024.

The second vote on the 3-month extension, which originally had the support of six Republicans, failed by a 54-45 margin with only bill co-sponsor Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. remaining in favor of it.

The change in sentiment with regards to any extension seems to be based in the argument that there was no agreed upon payment provision for the programs. Another sticking point was the vote threshold for amendments (60) and the legislation passing (51), which Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, described as being “fundamentally unfair.”

This division in the Senate has severely hampered the likelihood of passage of any action that will extend long-term benefits, meaning that those 1.3 million Americans who lost their benefits in late December will be without any relief for the foreseeable according to some analysts.

With the Senate now unlikely to revisit the issue in the near future and more likely to focus on the details of a larger bill that will keep the government funded and open, any chance of extension legislation is becoming slimmer.

However, Senator Reid’s tactic of voting against his own motion to proceed enables him to bring up the bill for reconsideration if agreement is ever reached between the two sides.

KRA Corporation continues to remain hopeful that this benefit is reinstated to aid those unemployed jobseekers that rely on this benefit while they explore opportunities to find employment.

KRA Corporation also remains firmly committed to its mission of preparing job seekers for tomorrow's global economy while lawmakers address this situation. Through our support of Federal, state, and local agencies, we will continue to design, develop, and operate performance-based workforce development programs aimed at improving both the lives as well as the communities affected by unemployment.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Look at the Size and State of the Current U.S. Workforce

KRA Corporation takes a look at the U.S. workforce, how it stands, and some potential factors that could be affecting it.

A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Labor Participation rate graph shows that the rate of participation for workers 16 years of age and older has dropped by more than 3% in the last 10 years (from 66.4% to 63%). It is a decline that is worrisome, as it might point to a weakened U.S. economy in the future as well as lowered growth prospects.

A Washington Post article points to three factors that could be contributing to this phenomenon: a retiring baby boomer population (meaning fewer workers to choose from), the search for higher education in a bad economy, and an increase of workers receiving disability insurance.

It is also worrying as it begs the question as to how those that make up the U.S. workforce are faring in the current economic climate. Recessions make for belt tightening, and cutting fixed labor costs is one of the quickest ways to increase profits. It also leads to changing management techniques and restructuring of benefit packages.

Just how quickly those employment practices and company policies will shift is open for some debate. The bargaining power of jobseekers and employees has been severely affected, and there are factions that seem to think there will not be a rush by larger companies to restructure or change hiring practices.

The practice of hiring nonstandard, temporary, and/or part-time employees is something that some groups believe is not likely to change in the near future, either. An unfortunate by-product, which stems from the sense of lack of job security and impermanence of employment, is a decline in mental health for those affected by the change in employment status (something that KRA Corporation highlighted in a previous post).

These practices and a weak job market have given rise to more and more workforce “dropouts.” By simply giving up on searching for employment, they risk being left behind and eventually become unemployable—an unfortunate outcome that KRA Corporation continually strives to address and combat as part of its mission.

Additionally, the practice of offshoring continues to draw a lot of criticism, being regarded as a potential drain on the U.S. workforce with jobs being shipped internationally. Even with a rebounding economy, some economists believe that it will not spur a reversal of those decisions and bring the jobs back to the U.S.

There have been efforts made to create programs by the current administration, like the Make it in America Challenge (as highlighted in this KRA Corporation post), to dissuade the practice and keep, expand, or reshore U.S.-based manufacturing operations—an effort at job creation that KRA Corporation applauds.

Since 1981, our commitment to supporting the mission of federal, state, and local agencies that are dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and strengthening the communities in which we live has never wavered. Successfully weathering cyclical economic climates, KRA Corporation has remained dedicated to its mission of providing workforce development services that prepare jobseekers for tomorrow’s global economy and supply employers with a trained and reliable workforce.