Workforce Investment Act programs at risk in the coming year

Authors: Imran Battla | The Prana Group Imran Battla of the Prana Group shares his take on proposed cuts to the Federal Workforce Investment Act. Learn more about the Act here. Workforce development programs are an important part of the nation's economic recovery and job creation effort. Yet the House Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Appropriations bill (HR 1) zeroes out all funding for Workforce Investment Act (WIA) state and local employment and training programs, a cut of over $3.6 billion for the coming year (beginning this July). The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs provide vital services for the nation's unemployed, the under-employed, and for America's businesses as they try to rebound from the recession. Simply put, a reduction of funding for WIA would cripple the nation's employment and training system during one of the worst economic downturns in American history. A critical component to all economic development efforts is a skilled and productive workforce. For green workforce development, WIA is a critical element of inducement for new businesses and retention of existing business. To take away the funding, which ensures that local workers have the training and retraining needed to meet the ever-changing demands of the green business community, jeopardizes our competitiveness and limits the support we can provide to small and large businesses throughout the country. Here in Atlanta, GA, the American Cities Mentorship Program for Sustainability (AMPS) has been created as a mentorship and green job program for underprivileged youth. The program provides a meaningful training opportunity that engages youth and residents to explore the health, economic, and environmental benefits of energy conservation, and has been a recipient of WIA funding. AMPS is a non-profit organization working to distribute FREE Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLS) and water conservation kits to community members in areas of modest means. The "EcoTerns" (ecological interns), as AMPS employees affectionately call them, are educated not only on the installation of conservation devices, but also on the importance of improving the environmental intelligence within their communities. The AMPS model places a special emphasis on mentorship for the EcoTerns, providing them with extensive training to help with community engagement as well as education on the importance of personal responsibility, developing future goals, and understanding on-the-job professionalism. AMPS is poised to become one of America's premier Green Collar Jobs initiative; however, it is in danger of not providing a meaningful green job experience for urban youth because of cuts in Workforce Investment Act funding that helps the jobless in America find work. Our direct-door delivery of investment service packages of energy efficiency in neighborhoods like Mozley Park, Donnelly Gardens, Oakland City, and Flipper Temple communities will cease to exist, as well as seriously jeopardize our ability to provide meaningful mentorship and trainingship opportunities for Atlanta Public High School students. If enacted, these cuts would force many states and local areas to reduce or even eliminate critical job training and employment services, likely causing thousands of new job losses and denying access to the more than 8 million workers and youth who received Title I WIA-funded services in the last year alone, including AMPS. AMPS is not only stimulating local economies by providing meaningful jobs; it is also bringing the environmental conversation down to the community level, actively engaging with residents who have been left out of the sustainability movement. Currently, AMPS is operational in Atlanta, GA, Columbus, OH, and Prince George's County, MD, as these cities have been instrumental in converging strategic partnerships of workforce development agencies, local non-profits, and sustainable businesses – proving that a well-funded set of green jobs programs explicitly designed to close those racial gaps can create a truly vital, full-employment economy and help the environment, one household at a time. With Fellows Marcus Penny and Tony Anderson

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