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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Workforce training and Employment

We have some abysmal numbers of unemployed people in some sectors of the economy no matter what the statistics say. Unemployment in the 20-24 year old component of our population is at 9% nationally [see] even where it's lower on average. For minorities the rates are much higher. Overall the Washington Area unemployment when including surrounding areas is 3.8% while for the District proper it 6.3% []. Not having an income or productive employment is bad for people's psychological, civic and spiritual health. I've been volunteering with my friends at GABIDDC and other organizations to do something about this. Two of FD Roosevelt's envisioned rights in his "Second Bill of Rights" were:

Decent Employment
An Adequate wage and decent living (living wage) from that employment

There can be no fair and equitable society (equity = a fair society) unless people can use their creativity, be employed at something useful and get compensated for their labors. But these are positive rights; they require institutions, programs, resources and efforts to become reality. My friend Mike Jackson is devoting Herculean efforts to getting workforce training and development programs stood up and supported in the District of Columbia and around the Country. I've been doing what I can to support his efforts.


The Washington Post published an article that was part of a report titled: "Why D.C. has a uniquely bad record on helping the unemployed get jobs" And the article claims that DC's problems with workforce training and employment are due to:

“Bureaucratic obstacles and other dysfunction at the District’s workforce agencies have blocked the spending of tens of millions of dollars in recent years to provide job training that could have helped thousands of the unemployed find work, according to officials and city contractors.” [Wash Post]

The District has been having serious problems meeting it's workforce goals. And now we see that there are specific causes for that dysfunction. Which indicates that this problem can be solved.

“The failure to spend city and federal funds available for jobs programs occurred as city leaders lamented that high unemployment in poor neighborhoods was fueling crime.[Wash Post]

This is also an example of how "the battle was lost for want of a nail." Or in this case, because the city relied on vendors to do their mission on a reimbursement basis -- and paid them late.

“Top District officials blame most of this year’s underspending on a shortage of nonprofit training providers qualified to do the work — while adding that many of the contractors stopped doing such work in the past because the city failed to pay them on time. [Wash Post]

While some wealthy folks can do volunteer work at a loss. Most folks, especially local institutions, employers and trainers can't afford to do volunteer work at a loss. They at least have to break even in order to pay themselves and eat. They aren't even going to bid for a contract if the city isn't going to pay them. So:

“delays in issuing $1.7 million in grants" which "forced the shutdown since July 1 of federally financed programs to teach basic job skills to young high school dropouts. [Wash Post]

was a way to cause cascading failures in the system. And of course:

“The troubles [were] so severe that the District is the only jurisdiction in the nation that the U.S. Labor Department currently labels as a “high-risk” partner in job training and employment programs.” [Wash Post]

And of course:

“The designation, which the District has had since 2012, places the city under increased federal oversight and means it risks suffering a slowdown in federal grants totaling $24 million a year for job training.” [Wash Post]

Which of course only makes the situation worse. Fines don't affect bureaucrats. They affect the very vendors whose fears of not getting paid are driving them to drop out of the program. And thus they affect delivery and the people they are supposed to serve. So when back in December;

“Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez expressed concern about the District’s shortcomings at a meeting with Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) in April.” [Wash Post]

I'm not sure how perverse incentives and not fixing the grant and reimbursement accounting system can be solved with fines and lectures aimed at the Mayor. The solution to this problem is going to be with better administration of the Workforce funds and for them to deliver as promised.

“Neither the Labor Department nor the mayor’s office would discuss the meeting, which they said was confidential. But documents released by the city following a Freedom of Information Act request show Labor is primarily unhappy with poor management of programs for youths up to age 24.” [Wash Post]

The reason is:

“About 60,000 District adults lack a high-school diploma or its equivalent, and 30,000 or more have such a degree but aren’t reading at an eighth grade level, officials said. About 25,000 District residents are unemployed.” [Wash Post]

At the same time:

“There are more jobs available than there are [qualified] people to fill them,” DOES Director Deborah Carroll said.” [Wash Post]

So GED classes, community college type programs, undergraduate programs, And Workforce Training, apprenticeships, etc... are all necessary if people are to get and keep employment in this economy. There is a gap between the workforce available and the jobs available as a result.

It is incongruous when people are hungry while work is available for them. Those two gaps need to be bridged. Workforce Development programs and training bridge those gaps.

How we can Help them

We can help them by our efforts. If people donate to these efforts then time lapses because of bureaucracy or for other causes need not result in people's classes, like the Stephon Williams GED classes example mentioned in the article, because of lack of funding. All the while available jobs go unfilled. When people don't have the qualifications they remain jobless, unemployed, or get in trouble with the law and wind up stuck in the judicial system or criminal circles.

The solution is obvious -- and there are volunteers such as the GABIDDC I've been donating time to, that are doing their best to provide workforce training and development, with or without official help, and who need that support. So we applaud that Mayor Bowser and her administration including, as the Washington Post Article noted:

“Carroll and her supervisor, Deputy Mayor Courtney Snowden, said in interviews that they were committed to fixing the problems, many of which they said they inherited after taking office this year.” [Wash Post]

Mayor Bowser and deputy Mayor Snowden are seeking to rebuild an organization plagued by "low morale and poor implementation" and we are seeking to help them, including by building bridges with other organizations seeking to do the same thing, including Emory Beacon of Light and UDC to enable us to make this a movement, to continue to implement and sustain this effort, so we can both support, encourage and prod the district government and others to put real weight, effort and resources into the effort.

They have promised to:

“move quickly to resume federal funding for training out-of-school youths.” [Wash Post]

And, we should be ready to move quickly to ensure those resources are put to virtuous use once available. We are going to hold them to keeping their promise that they'll "get this money out the door."


We aim to help the District be able to make its' commitments. To do that we must help them by doing our part to ensure that we are ready to execute job training programs when DOES offers them, by connecting students and training, the unemployed and useful work.

If you want to contribute to GABIDDC we could use the donations. The organization is a non-profit and donations to it are tax deductible.

Donate Page

Further Reading And Sources

Washington Post Article:
HR 803:
Statistics Sources:
Unemployment by Age:
" "     " "  " "     by region:
Second Bill of Rights

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