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[OPINION] Want More Jobs? Then Don't Cut Job Training

San Diego Business Journal logoOriginal content from the San Diego Business Journal reposted on workforce.org with permission.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump appealed to working class voters by promising to bring jobs back to the U.S. This is certainly an important goal, but job creation is only half of the jobs equation. SDBJ commentary co-authors: Chris Lu, Peter Callstrom, Phil Blair

Job creation means nothing without job training. That’s why federal funding for job training is so critical to providing the skills that employers demand.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has released a budget blueprint that cuts more than $2 billion from federal job training programs. This is not only devastating to American workers, it is counterintuitive. These draconian cuts would seriously undermine the ability of workers to acquire the skills needed to compete for the jobs that Trump has promised to create.

We should all be extremely concerned if the administration succeeds in slashing workforce training programs when they are needed most. These training programs are cost-effective and provide workers with the critical skills demanded by employers. Hard-working Americans get good jobs, employers get skilled workers, and our economy and society benefits in innumerable ways.

Federal training and employment services help millions of unemployed and underemployed adults around our great country, including over 1.1 million people a year in California alone.

If the misguided Trump budget is enacted, 400,000 California residents would lose access to services that help them find work or acquire the skills needed by growing sectors like advanced manufacturing, health care, and IT.

Training for Young Adults

Another group of victims of the Trump budget are young adults, our future workforce. Trump’s budget would cut funding for Job Corps Centers, a residential training program that operates in all 50 states, serving over 40,000 youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

At seven centers in California, including one in Imperial Beach, thousands of young people earn their GED and train for good-paying jobs in fields like carpentry, health care, and hotel/lodging.

The President’s budget also would seriously endanger funding for proven job training programs for thousands of incarcerated individuals who will soon re-enter our region. Successful re-entry programs benefit everyone — former offenders, our communities, and the criminal justice system — and more funding is needed. 

In 2016, the first re-entry job training programs in the San Diego area were launched at the East Mesa and Las Colinas detention facilities. This innovative partnership — between the Sheriff and Probation departments, Second Chance, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, and the U. S. Department of Labor — places job centers inside jails. Through this program, inmates are able to prepare for employment before they are released. They develop resumes, practice interviews, and research jobs and career pathways.

Research has shown that more than 60% of former offenders return to crime. In just its first year, this new partnership has brought the recidivism rate down to the single digits. The cost per participant in this program is less than $1,000, compared to the $50,000 cost of housing and feeding an inmate for a year. A fraction of the cost with immeasurable results.

Returns on Investments

This return on investment is realized in other training programs that help unemployed workers, seniors, young people, people with disabilities, veterans and others who are struggling to enter or return to the workforce. Job training programs provide not only hope, but real results that empower millions of workers to achieve a brighter future.

Smart public investment with regional partners equals success for workers and businesses alike. We need more funding, not the devastating cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

Budgets reflect our nation’s priorities and values. The smart way to make America great again is to train the entire workforce so that everyone can maximize their potential and contribute to our economy. When that happens, we all win.

We need to all let our elected leaders and the new administration know that investing in our workforce is the best investment that government can make.

Chris Lu is a former Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor. 
Peter Callstrom is the CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership.
Phil Blair is CEO of Manpower San Diego.