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While the economy has added 7.3 million private sector jobs over the past 41 months, 4.2 million workers have been unemployed for six months or longer, accounting for 37 percent of total unemployment. Over the last six months, National Skills Coalition’s staff, leadership and members have been weighing in with the White House on innovative strategies for addressing long-term unemployment in local communities.
This year has seen a renewed focus by the Administration on addressing long-term unemployment, beginning with the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal which included a $4 billion Reemployment NOW program so that states can fund “innovative strategies to connect workers receiving unemployment insurance and other long-term unemployed individuals with job opportunities.”
Over the past several months, the White House has reached out to National Skills Coalition and a range of stakeholders to discuss other possible approaches to the long-term unemployment challenge. Participants in these meetings have included NSC Board members Harry Holzer of Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Abby Snay of Jewish Vocational Services of San Francisco, and Van Ton-Quinlivan of the California Community College system, as well as NSC Leadership Council members and affiliates representing North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, International Association of Jewish Vocational Services, Partners for a Competitive Workforce, 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund and M-Powered.
During one of a series of recent speeches about getting the U.S. economy back on track, President Obama also announced that to address long-term unemployment, he would “bring together the CEOs and companies that are putting in place some of the best practices for recruiting and training and hiring workers who have been out of work for a long time, but want the chance to show that they're ready to go back to work.”
On a similar note, in October NSC and National Fund for Workforce Solutions will bring 50 such employers to Washington for an upcoming meeting of Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships. These business leaders hope to share some of their ideas about best practices for recruiting and training workers (including the long-term unemployed) with the White House, the new Secretaries of Labor and Commerce, and leaders in Congress.
Building on the President’s speeches, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently hosted a roundtable with 20 long-term unemployed professionals to better understand and address the needs of these job seekers. In a blog post about the roundtable discussion, Ben Seigel, an adviser to DOL’s assistant secretary for policy and deputy director of the department’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, noted three primary takeaways from the convening. Participants were looking for more opportunities to engage hiring decision-makers, better data on job openings, and for those pursuing retraining, assurance that their credentials will be industry recognized and in-demand.
National Skills Coalition applauds the Administration for its continued focus on this crucial economic issue. Our staff, leadership, and members will continue to meet regularly with the White House and federal agencies to inform their thinking as they develop proposals to help more long-term unemployed individuals get back into the workforce and to ensure that employers have the skilled workers they need to grow.