DOL Budget Request Promotes Workforce Readiness

By Roy Maurer Feb 6, 2015
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President Barack Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request for the Department of Labor (DOL) includes funding to increase employment services and training opportunities for unemployed workers, double the number of registered apprenticeships, help troubled youths and people with criminal convictions find work, and reform the unemployment insurance system.

The $13.2 billion request would be a $1.3 billion increase from the FY 2015 enacted budget. The federal government’s 2016 fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2015.

“This department’s budget expands our investments on behalf of working families, [and] it reinforces our commitment to job training and apprenticeship, fair and equal pay, paid leave, safe workplaces and secure retirements,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement.

Employment Resources

A major focus of the DOL budget is providing unemployed workers with job training so they can get back to work.

The plan includes increases for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s job training programs and employment services for unemployed workers. “Evidence suggests such services are a cost-effective intervention that get workers back into jobs faster, and help employers fill their in-demand jobs,” the department said.

For workers in need of job training, the budget provides funding to double over the next 10 years the number of workers receiving training through the nation’s workforce development system. “This training would focus on industries that are expected to grow substantially in the coming decades, such as health care, energy, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, cybersecurity, and information technology,” the DOL said. Additional funding would also be available to provide training, subsidized employment and need-based stipends for the long-term unemployed.

The president’s proposal would double the number of registered apprenticeships across the country over the next five years. The DOL’s apprenticeship program combines job-related technical instruction with on-the-job experience. The program is traditionally active in industries such as construction and manufacturing, but it is making inroads in emerging industries such as health care, energy and homeland security, according to the DOL.

“Apprenticeship is a cost-effective pathway into the middle class. According to the department’s data, those who complete registered apprenticeship programs earn median wages over $50,000 and more than 90 percent are employed after completion,” the department said.

The budget provides funding for industry credentialing and career pathways grants, used to create employer-validated credentialing, speed the development and adoption of credentials with labor market value, and more effectively match job seekers to employment opportunities, according to the DOL.

Assisting troubled youths and people with criminal convictions is another aim of the president’s plan. The proposal includes funding for the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program, which helps people with criminal backgrounds obtain job training and employment, and the Connecting with Opportunity Initiative, which is meant to create educational and workforce pathways for at-risk youth.

The budget proposes reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides income support, training, and job search and relocation allowances to individuals who lose their jobs due to trade.

The plan also proposes several reforms to the country’s unemployment insurance (UI) system. “These reforms will improve the solvency of state programs, strengthen the program’s connection to work, reach more workers who lose a job through no fault of their own, and make the UI program more targeted and responsive in unfolding economic downturns by implementing an extended benefits program that provides added benefits as soon as a state experiences a sharp rise in unemployment, even if a wider increase in unemployment has not yet occurred,” the department said.

The current extended benefits program provides up to 20 additional weeks of UI benefits in states that have high unemployment. The new program would provide up to 52 weeks of additional benefits.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.Follow him @SHRMRoy

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