A binational delegation of 163 business, government and community leaders from the San Diego/Cali-Baja region traveled to Washington, DC September 24–27 to elevate the region’s priorities on the national agenda. Workforce development was a strong theme in meetings with Congress and the administration, alongside DACA, border issues, trade and health.
Laura Kohn, San Diego Workforce Partnership Director of the Center for Local Income Mobility (CLIMB), traveled to DC as a member of the delegation. Former Workforce Development Board Member and San Diego Councilmember Lorie Zapf provided an additional strong voice in support of workforce investments and education along with regional representatives from community organizations, schools and universities.
In two meetings with the Department of Education, one with the Department of Labor and additional meetings with members of congress from both parties, a strong consensus emerged that we need to do more to help students and young adults prepare to thrive in the workforce, not just college. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was clear on this point, saying that she and the department hope to use the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as a vehicle to increase focus on and investment in career education and workforce development. This aspiration was affirmed by Representative Susan Davis, who recently became Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. This uncommon bipartisan agreement will be tested when the committee releases its draft legislation later this year.
However, the House 2018 budget resolution, passed on a 219-206 vote on October 5, provides a completely different signal about the trajectory of federal workforce policy. The budget cuts $20 billion over ten years in workforce-related programs. It also slashes Pell Grants and other federal student loans, which make higher education possible for tens of millions of students each year. The resolution is non-binding; it provides a blueprint to House committees as they craft their budget bills. It nevertheless signifies the tension between the intentions to support workers and employers and the reality of doing so, while attempting to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion.