The Argument for Regionally Based Job Training Programs

Prior to passage of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) in 1973, job training programs were largely federally operated.  Moreover, they were very fragmented and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the way the programs were organized.  CETA changed all that. Though it remained federally funded, all funds were passed through to states and localities, and for the first time the job training system was locally operated through a system of “prime sponsors” – units of general purpose government such as cities or counties.

President Richard Nixon underscored this point when he signed CETA into law.  He said,  

“For the first time, [funds will] be made available to State and local governments without any Federal strings as to what kind of services or how much of those services should be provided. From now on, State and local governments will be the decision makers concerning the mix of manpower services, which they make available.”

Over the next 40 years, the nation’s job training system was transformed from one that began as city- or county-based to one that required a regional response to the workforce needs of business, industry, and workers.[1]

This transformation was not always without controversy.  States sought to control the program and deliver services statewide, and individual cities and counties sought to maintain their control over the funds and the program. Yet time and time again policymakers decided that America’s federally funded job training system should be delivered locally through a system of regionally based workforce programs that were multi-jurisdictional and reflected labor markets, economic development areas, and regional economies.

Why?  Regions, rather than individual cities or counties, are more likely to reflect the true labor market of an area.  Workers of course will cross governmental boundaries to get to work, employers will draw upon workers from a wide area and not just the municipality or county in which they are located, and wage rates are likely to be similar across these areas, thereby ensuring that individual workers would consider a variety of locations for work. 

Regions, rather than individual cities or counties, are more likely to be able to generate successful economic development strategies.  The many jurisdictions within a region are better able to develop effective land use and tax policies, make better use of the human capital throughout the region, and generate business and industrial development and jobs.

With passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in 2014, policymakers finally made it clear that workforce development and job training programs must be regionally based. 

The law states that each state when drawing up its workforce development areas shall develop planning regions that consist of labor market areas, economic development regions, and other “contiguous sub-areas” of the states.  And as part of the identification process, the state will use the following regional criteria:

What began as a single city- or county-based job training system some 45 years ago has morphed into a robust, multi-jurisdictional job training system that reflects how and why economies emerge. Going beyond governmental boundaries, this system provides workforce development based on labor markets, economic development areas, local economies, industrial composition, labor force conditions and participation, and much more. 

[1] The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) in 1983, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1988, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in 2014 succeeded CETA. 

The Ongoing Debate Over Disaster Relief and Climate Change Collide

After more than a year of negotiations, the Senate appears to have moved closer to an agreement on disaster funding for Puerto Rico, Florida, and California. 

According to Politico, Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, respectively, and the President are near an agreement that will provide $17 billion in assistance to communities recently impacted by disasters, though the amount going directly to Puerto Rico remains under discussion.  

Sadly, it is likely that the debate around how much the federal government should spend to respond to the impacts of disasters on states, counties, cities, and regions will continue as more and more data suggest that climate change and weather-related disasters are likely to be on-going and have more severe consequences than previously thought. 

Early Monday, hundreds of scientists, working under the auspices of the United Nations, gathered in Paris for the release of a summary report that was approved by 132 nations, including the United States.  The report focuses on the unanticipated impact that climate change and weather-related disasters are likely to have.  New and profoundly significant impacts on plants and animals and the ecosystems in which they live, and upon which humans are dependent, are now predicted.  

The report states that changes in weather patterns such as those being experienced in the Midwest and Mississippi and Missouri River Basins right now, the severity of storms and sea level rise, the elimination of coastal wetlands and inundation of fresh water supplies by salt water, and continued melting of the polar ice caps, will result in the extinction of a million plant and animal species. The report adds that once flourishing ecosystems are likely to all but disappear because humans are transforming the earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically.

While short term political battles, such as the one we are seeing over disaster relief for Puerto Rico and some states, are likely to continue, there can be no doubt, given the most recent reports on climate change, that funding for disaster relief will continue into the foreseeable future as we face an increasing number of climate change and weather-related disasters.

Older Americans Month 2019: Connect, Create, Contribute

Each year, more older adults are making a positive impact across America. As volunteers, employees, employers, educators, mentors, advocates, and more, they offer insight and experience that benefit the entire community. That’s why Older Americans Month (OAM) has been recognizing the contributions of this growing population for 56 years.

Led by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) each May, OAM provides resources to help older Americans stay healthy and independent, and resources to help communities support and celebrate their diversity.

This year’s OAM theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to:

  • Connect with friends, family, and local services and resources.
  • Create through activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
  • Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.

Along with regions all around the nation, NARC will celebrate OAM by promoting ways that community members of all ages can take part in helping the country thrive. Below are three great examples from our membership regarding how their current work highlights this year’s OAM theme:

Connect: The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments Area Agency on Aging (AAA) publishes an annual Senior Information and Assistance Directory, a resource guide connecting seniors and caregivers to many services of interest available throughout the region.

Create: The Rogue Valley Council of Governments Senior and Disability Services department holds six-week Living Well workshops, helping seniors build self-management skills to better deal with diabetes and chronic pain and conditions.

Contribute: The Atlanta Regional Commission Aging and Independence Services Group (the metro region’s AAA) provides senior volunteer opportunities through its empowerline program. Through a variety of activities, senior volunteers share important health, wellness, and preventative services information with the peers in their region that seek assistance.

Join NARC this month in recognizing the important role seniors play in our communities, as well as programming that is happening across our regions to engage and support older Americans. Visit the official OAM website for ideas and inspiration, and follow ACL on Twitter and Facebook.