As we experience the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and with the national unemployment rate at its highest level in more than a generation, federal policymakers are increasingly looking at policies and strategies that will put America back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has saved or created more than 1 million jobs, and Congress is working to pass a jobs bill designed to build on this extraordinary investment.
As the economy recovers and begins creating jobs again, workers will find it vital to have the skills they need to take maximum advantage of the opportunities. Many newly created jobs will be "middle-skill" jobs such as nurses, welders and database managers. These occupations require significant education and training beyond the high school level but not a four-year degree. Educating people to fill these middle-skill jobs is crucial, especially to enable low-skill workers to take advantage of emerging job opportunities, and for businesses to grow with the skilled workforce they need.
To turn today’s crisis into tomorrow’s opportunity, we must then make sufficient investments in a national skills strategy that brings the federal workforce development system to scale and ensures that all workers have access to the education and training they need to prosper. For too long, federal investments in workforce development have been in decline, placing a significant financial burden on employers and leaving behind those individuals who could benefit the most from skills training.