The Employment Action Center (EAC) in Minneapolis is gearing up for tougher times when 300 welfare recipients get dropped from a key state-sponsored worker-training program next year.
The center, which conducts training and dislocated worker programs for the state, is one of several agencies that will lose all state funding in June for welfare-to-work client training. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the state cut $10 million from the Minnesota Family Investment Program Consolidated Funds, which go to counties and tribes for welfare to work programs.
“The impact this will have on our client base is catastrophic,” said EAC director Carrie Scheffler . “These programs provide an opportunity for our jobseekers to get a foot in the door that is otherwise not open to them. In this economy this group is labeled the hardest to serve by the state. They don’t have the credentials, work history and skills to compete competitively in the job market.”
As a result, businesses are often unwilling to hire them without the help of a job skills coach and training that EAC provides.
Under its program, participants are placed in jobs with one of EAC’s 200 business partners. They work up to 25 hours a week at 7.25 an hour. The state pays the wages during the 12-week training program. Workers also receive training and coaching that hammer home the concepts of timeliness, consistency, professionalism and management expectations.
But no more. State budget watchers argue that the state’s budget crisis means Minnesota can no longer afford such services. EAC’s program alone costs the state about $970,000 a year for just 300 clients, mostly in the form of wage subsidies.
Hennepin and Ramsey Counties have three agencies that run similar programs for the poor. Dakota County also has one agency. The list goes on and on, “so across the state everybody is being cut. The entire program is being eliminated,” said Julie Kizlik, EAC welfare to work director.
She added that her program helped 3,000 clients transition into work since 1999.
Going forward, agencies will ask business partners to grant clients unpaid internships or hire them outright so that they can get work experience needed to get full-time and well paying jobs.
The state has awarded a $178,406 Job Skills Partnership grant that will help train 279 workers at the CentraCare Health System in Long Prairie, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) announced Tuesday.
Nurses, emergency and medical technicians and transcribers will learn techniques to improve safety and patient care using a program developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and offered by Central Lakes College.
CentraCare Health System operates a hospital, clinic and long-term care facility that serve Todd County area residents.
DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips said the training will help CentraCare and allow Central Lakes College to expand its curriculum in the area of innovative patient care.
The training grant is one of dozens the state’s Job Skills Program offers to businesses, communities, educational institutions and workers affected by the economy or changing industries.
Despite national unemployment that tops 9 percent, American manufacturers insist they cannot fill 600,000 jobs because job applicants lack the high tech skills needed to run the country's factories.
That's the beef of 1,123 U.S. factory heads who were recently surveyed by The Manufacturing Institute and the accounting giant Deloitte LLP.
The manufacturing executives said that 5 percent of jobs inside their factories go unfilled because candidates are unqualified. They insist they need a highly skilled and flexible workforce in order to grow. Some admit they are stuck.
"The survey shows that 67 percent of manufacturers have a moderate to severe shortage of available qualified workers," said Deloitte Industrial Products Leader Craig Giffi. Sadly, some 56 percent of surveyed respondents anticipate that skill shortages will worsen in three to five years.
That's not good. After all, some 26 million Americans are currently unemployed or underemployed. People need jobs.
So what skills are lacking? "Skilled production workers " and "problem solvers" make up the broadest categories.
Actual job titles fall under names such as machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors and technicians, explained Manufacturing Institute President Emily DeRocco. "Unfortunately, these jobs require the most training and are traditionally among the hardest manufacturing jobs to find existing talent to fill," she said.
The trend accelerated in 2008 because many factories responded to the economic downturn by redesigning, automating and streamlining their production lines. So just as the industry changed, the skillset of workers needed to change as well, DeRocco said.
Minnesota manufacturers have long struggled with the problem. Some partner with community and technical schools to create training programs. Others snatch up retraining money from the state. And still others simply go without and won't invest in in-house training due to concerns about cost and an unforgiving economy.
Still, companies do nothing at their peril, insist experts.
"The results of this survey may appear dire," said Deloitte Consulting principal Tom Morrison. "Many manufacturers are using the same approaches to talent development as they were a decade ago. But new performance tools and formal processes like industry certifications should be playing a larger role in any talent management plan."
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