Tuesday, February 24, 2009


"This is not your father's WPA program....The study finds that 54 percent of the 3.7 million jobs...created or saved by the $787 billion stimulus package will require at least a postsecondary certificate, with a full 37 percent of the jobs requiring an associate degree or greater."

Doug Lederman,"A Jobs-Bill for the College Educated, Inside Higher Ed, February 23, 2009.

So what does this mean for low-income, low-skilled workers -- like some of the 88 million with literacy challenges. Well, it's unlikely that they will get a post secondary certificate in two years, especially given drop out rates and lack of graduation in community colleges across the country. But some will.

What about the construction-related, "shovel ready" jobs. It's possible but there are a lot of people on the bench who have been laid off, some of whom we trained last year and the year before. A recent analysis showed underepresentation of women and African Americans in these jobs.

A couple of approaches come to mind. A first is local and state policies that target some portion of the jobs to low-income populations -- like first source, hiring agreements, community benefits agreements. This will be tough given the timing but possible. Don't be surprised by unlikely opponents.

A second approach is to link together the energy retrofit stimulus investments and workforce dollars to create a green career ladder. These jobs wouldn't require a lot of training on the front end but could be entry point to apprenticeships and other careers.

And, if unemployment continues to rise, we may need a WPA like our fathers and mothers knew it.

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