Letter of Response to NYT: We Need to Invest in Skills

August 04, 2014

On July 25, the New York Times Editorial Board published New Job Law Misses the Mark, praising the work of District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund and WRTP/BIG STEP but dismissing the need for skills investment. The cited organizations submitted the folowing letter of response:

In “New Job Law Misses the Mark,” the editors seem to repeat the false “jobs vs. skills” debate. We thank the Times for recognizing the value of labor-affiliated training partnerships like ours. And we agree that our country needs to create more jobs and lift wages if we’re going to help millions of unemployed Americans. But that does not mean we should dismiss the need to invest in the skills of our working people as a tool to help drive that economic growth.

On workforce investment the U.S. lags most of its competitors. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks us below most industrialized countries, with 36 million U.S. adults lacking the basic skills to build a decent career. The new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will address that challenge if states exercise the option to invest in industry partnerships like ours.

Labor-management partnerships see industry as a vital partner in this endeavor. We question the editors’ rejection of employer difficulties in finding skilled workers for open positions. We are union affiliates, and even we see the challenges in filling some good-paying jobs in manufacturing and healthcare. This is particularly true in cities like Philadelphia and Milwaukee, where there is a disconnect between the traditional labor market supply/demand model and the real-world challenges facing local residents.

We have been able to use training, both on and off the job, to get good local people into good local jobs. We hope WIOA will build our capacity to help more in our communities.

Cheryl Feldman, District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund AFSCME, Philadelphia
Mark Kessenich, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, Milwaukee