Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Construction Roadmap

"A strong urban policy agenda will be crucial to key initiatives prioritized by the Obama Administration...To truly succeed, these initiatives must grow the supply of high quality jobs and ensure that low-income women and men can obtain those jobs."

The Partnership for Working Families, A New Urban Agenda for America: Rebuild the Middle Class.

There's been a lot of hand wringing and paper shuffling as the army of progressive policy wonks and wannabes crafted the economic stimulus/recovery package in its current form. To be shovel ready or long term? To be targeted to low-income or to everybody? To be green or to be highway? We're still not quite sure what answers came out the other end -- and certainly don't know what will persis through Congress.

I hope this short document by The Partnership for Working Families was well thumbed in the stimulus-making process. It offers sensible approaches, being tested on the ground, for incentivizing green development and linking all kinds of development to jobs and careers in the construction trades.

It argues for the adoption of policy frameworks that join job quality, construction careers, and green development-- whether in the form of community benefits agreements or policies like that adopted by the LA Community Redevelopment Agency. Lots of good detail in six pages. What a deal.

Let me throw in one other idea. We know relatively little about all the myriad preapprenticeship training programs and efforts around the country, their effectiveness, and promising practices. When asked what capacity we have out there to link to new infrastructure investments, we cough and mention a few names, then a few more, soon moving into the cloudy domain of aspirations. Knowing what's out there (and what needs to be built) is important because these progranms represent the access points for people to get ready for construction careers. A public/private/philanthropic partnership should fix this knowledge and capacity problem with a top-level national Clearinghouse for Construction Careers.

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