In recent years, the pool of resources for human services, including job training, has been steadily evaporating despite increased need. In the case of job training, federal funding for job training has steadily eroded over the last decade. Since 2002, funding for the Workforce Investment Act’s (WIA) core funding streams has declined by $1 billion — more than 25 percent. Meanwhile unemployment was 5.8 percent in 2002, compared to 8.1 percent in 2012.
As a result practitioners are asking themselves, “How do we do more with less?” And many are landing on a common solution — collaboration — wherein agencies and stakeholders pool and leverage each other’s resources and expertise.
In 2009, we at Goodwill® launched the Community College/Career Collaboration (C4) to enhance local Goodwill agencies’ collaboration with community colleges. Through this enhanced partnership and with the support of the Lumina Foundation, we have worked with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to strengthen communities by delivering educational programs that help individuals earn marketable credentials and degrees.
These partnerships have employed a variety of innovative approaches to learning such as prior learning assessments (PLAs), a focus on building stackable credentials, and helping individuals achieve their GEDs and build job skills simultaneously. There are 60 Goodwill members engaged in 87 community college partnerships through the C4 initiative. More than 7,000 individuals enrolled in programs and more than 5,000 earned credentials.
With deficit reduction top of mind, policymakers are asking the same question: “How do we do more with less?” Unfortunately, some policymakers have concluded that doing more with less could be achieved by consolidating several unique job training programs into a one-size-fits-all block grant to states. Goodwill opposes wholesale consolidation because it would likely lack the sophistication necessary to ensure that the unique needs for certain hard-to-serve populations are met.
Fortunately, other policymakers have gotten wise to the value of partnerships, and are introducing proposals that aim to incentivize partnerships like C4. Most recently, on July 8, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Community College to Career Fund Act (S. 1269). The measure would amend WIA to create a new grant program to partnerships between employers and community colleges or four-year colleges; or between businesses and other adult education providers, community-based organizations, labor-management partnerships, or state or local workforce boards. The grants would be used to develop and offer workforce development programs.
Enactment of S. 1269 is a real longshot; however, Goodwill is encouraged by proposals that recognize the value of partnerships that leverage the resources and expertise of community-based organizations.