Budgeting for an Equity Agenda: Job Training and Apprenticeship Shine in President’s 2016 Budget

WOW’s National Center for Women’s Employment Equity offers research and technical assistance that demonstrates that providing opportunities for women to prepare for and enter nontraditional occupations are real routes to economic security. Our analysis of the President’s 2016 budget, which makes investments in job creation, apprenticeship, training, transportation and education, concludes that it offers great promise in this area.  We caution, however, that without a specific gender targeted and inclusive equity agenda, women can have a hard time finding the entry ramps to these good career pathways and job training opportunities and face barriers to moving forward and having success in nontraditional jobs.  The President’s proposals must address the issues women face in the workforce in order for this proposed budget to truly work to help women find economic security.

 

For instance, the budget emphasizes the importance of expanding programs, the passage and corresponding implementation of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), support for policies to help all Americans have access to free two-year college education, expansion of apprenticeship and on-the-job training opportunities,  as well as investments to address the country’s dire need for infrastructure improvements and an unprecedented initiative to expand and elevate the American manufacturing industry.

 

The President’s budget includes the Administration’s goal to double the number of apprenticeships over the next five years. Apprenticeship and on the job training offer a sound pathway to economic security.  We’d love to see a corresponding goal to significantly increase women’s participation in apprenticeship – and we know that both goals and targeted resources can set the stage for meeting these goals.

 

But one of those targeted resources, the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO), is the only federal funding source dedicated to women’s access to high wage, high skill nontraditional careers and is zeroed out of the President’s budget. The corresponding DOL 2016 budget justification, however, commits to a continuation of WANTO’s goals throughout the application of DOL technical assistance to the workforce development system. This TA, if explicitly targeted to address gender, could be one mechanism for truly moving the needle on women’s stagnant (and abhorrently low – 2.6%!) participation in apprenticeship.

 

 

In addition to job creation, the President’s 2016 budget proposals would invest heavily in WIOA implementation and expansion of resources for American Job Centers. WOW’s Senior Scholar, Mary Gatta, wrote All I Want is a Job!,released this summer by Stanford University Press, detailing her experience undercover in the workforce development system. The passage of WIOA in 2014 and the President’s proposed $500 million increase in investment over 2014 levels for career counseling would help eradicate many of the barriers Mary describes in her harrowing exploration of overworked frontline staff, under resourced American Jobs Centers, and frustrated job seekers. Further investment proposed to double the number of workers trained for growing sectors by our workforce development system would revitalize our system and provide vital pathways to economic security for women and their families.

 

The workforce system is critical to helping people enter the labor market, and proposed educational investments can help further prepare this workforce.  The President’s proposal to make 2-year community college programs free to students maintaining certain eligibility and a $2 billion investment in the American Technical Training Fund within the Career and Technical Education program will open educational doors previously closed to many women across the country. Here again, setting aside specific targeted resources to expand women and girls’ career exposure, preparation and support is essential.

 

Finally, the President’s proposed investments in infrastructure are critical to expanding job opportunities for thousands of workers – including women. The proposed $478 billion six year surface transportation reauthorization would fund jobs like the one Ledaya Epps has as a laborer on the project to expand light rail from the LA Metro to Los Angeles International Airport. But for Ledaya, who was the First Lady’s guest at this year’s State of the Union, the route into the industry wasn’t easy. It was support and training she got at Women in Nontraditional Employment Role’s (WINTER) pre-apprenticeship program that made her a competitive candidate. WINTER, a WOW subgrantee on our Opportunities for Women in Nontraditional Employment Initiative, is one of 14 programs across the country NCWEE brings together in building strategic and targeted practices and policies for the recruitment, enrollment, placement and retention of women in non-traditional jobs. Ensuring that funding for this kind of training and support needs to be a vital part of infrastructure investments and will boost women’s participation in these high-wage, high-skill jobs.

 

 

We applaud the President’s commitment to our nation’s critical workforce development issues and support for women’s economic security, and coupled with the DOL’s 2016 budget, we are hopeful that 2016 will offer increased opportunities for women in the workforce.

 

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