Testimony of Charissa Raynor
Executive Director, SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership
On behalf of the
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Before the Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness Subcommittee
House Committee on Education and Labor
February 26, 2009
“New Innovations and Best Practices Under the Workforce Investment Act”
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Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Hinojosa and Ranking Member Guthrie for the
opportunity to testify before the Subcommittee today. I am Charissa Raynor, Executive Director
of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Northwest Training Partnership. The
Partnership is a joint training effort by employers and SEIU. SEIU is the largest and fastest-
growing union in the nation, representing 2 million members in the public, healthcare, and
property services sectors.
SEIU’s Vision for WIA and Workforce Development
SEIU believes that the mission of WIA should be to prepare workers for a 21st century
economy and to offer them opportunities throughout their work lives to enhance their skills
and their earnings. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, the top 15 fastest-
growing occupations over the next decade include home care aides, registered nurses, food
service workers, janitors, and child care workers. However, these rapidly growing occupations,
with the exception of registered nurses, pay, on average, wages that are below the median
average wage for all occupations. As a union dedicated to lifting service workers into the middle
class and to promoting the delivery of high-quality services, SEIU has a strong interest in
working with the Subcommittee to reauthorize WIA to promote a comprehensive workforce
development strategy to:
1. Alleviate projected shortage occupations in such sectors as: healthcare, child care
and early education, and property services;
2. Offer low-literacy, low-skill workers intensive supports and learning strategies to fit
their needs; and
3. Create career paths that allow low-wage workers to rise to the middle class.
SEIU has a proven track record delivering job training and education, job placement, and
career development to home care, child care, property services and hospital and health system
workers across the country. They have created ongoing training and education efforts in their
larger local unions—often in partnership with their employers; and SEIU believes these efforts
can serve as models to strengthen the Workforce Investment Act.
Innovations and Best Practices in Washington
The work of the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership, a joint labor-management
program in Washington, is such an example. In operation since July 2008, the Training
Partnership is a nonprofit, labor-management organization dedicated to modernizing training
and workforce development for long term care workers and supporting career track programs
for workers ready to advance into hospital employment. By 2010, the Training Partnership will
be the primary training provider for long term care workers in Washington. We are primarily
funded by employer contributions and governed by a diverse board including labor and
employer representatives. Tuition for all training is paid and workers are paid for work time
missed to attend training.
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Long term care and hospital employers across Washington are experiencing serious
workforce shortages that are expected to worsen as baby boomers age—simultaneously reducing workforce supply and increasing demands on our healthcare systems—from entry-level, career track long term care jobs to high demand hospital jobs. At the same time, many
poor and low-income individuals—often women of color—have an interest in healthcare as a career. Matching these individuals with entry-level, career track healthcare jobs in their
communities would benefit both the economic status of these job seekers and support high
quality care for people living in those same communities.
More often than not though, these workers never access the career track because it is
not visible or because it is not supportive. For example, very few entry-level long term care
workers participate in a healthcare career track. In fact, most of these are dead-end jobs with
no room for advancement at all. Our goal is to improve the attachment of poor and low-income
individuals, especially people of color and women, across Washington to a meaningful
healthcare career track. Especially in today’s economic climate, the joint labor-management Training Partnership plays a critical role in Washington’s overall strategy for economic
stabilization and the benefits are three-fold: 1) building human capital; 2) meeting the current
demand for trained healthcare professionals; and 3) responding to structural changes in the
Broadly, the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership and partner organizations are in
the early stages of developing a 21
st century training platform that will link, at scale, these
individuals to career tracks in healthcare and support them as they advance up the career
ladder, providing a suite of career track training to more than 30,000 long term care workers
across Washington. This includes entry-level Home Care Aide training, advanced Home Care
Aide training, Peer Mentorship for new workers, and continuing education for Home Care Aides.
Specifically, the Training Partnership is working with partners to:
1. Design a modernized, adult learner centered training program—this includes
developing an accessible statewide career track for home care aides. Our focus is to
link a series of high demand healthcare occupations together in a “fast track”
program for home care aides. This “fast track” “credits” the entry-level home care
aide’s training and experience toward their ultimate healthcare degree or certificate.
We have also established an intermediate step for home care aides, Advanced Home
Care Aide, under the Apprenticeship model. This Apprenticeship program will be the
first for long term care workers in Washington. It is expected to be the largest
Apprenticeship program of any kind and possibly the largest healthcare
apprenticeship program in the country. In sum, we are creating targeted
opportunities for career mobility in the high demand healthcare sector—from entry-
level career track home care aide to Advanced Home Care Aide to nursing and other
high demand hospital jobs;
2. Develop a Web-based Community Network Tool—a virtual entry point for
community-based organizations to help job seekers access a customized career track
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and employment. Features include: a) a Career Track Calculator that can be used to
map different career track options depending on individual goals and needs; and b)
a Real Time Employment Hub that can be used to identify job openings among
partner employers and being the application process.
The joint labor-management training model, such as the SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership, maintains progress in difficult times and responds to the cyclical nature of
economic downturns by sustaining public-private partnerships. Programs under the training
partnership model are informed by a culturally and linguistically diverse set of stakeholders
through two advisory structures: the College Consortium for college representatives and the
Community Network for community-based organizations, including workforce development,
consumer advocacy, and government agencies.
While we have an excellent relationship with the WIB and many other community organizations, the Training Partnership has yet to receive WIA funding. Expanding the purpose
of the Workforce Investment Act to include labor-management training programs would add
value to the WIA funding system, as well as greatly enhance our ability to train unemployed and
incumbent workers of all skill levels.
SEIU members play a dual role in worforce training and development. SEIU is a training provider in some industries and localities, and SEIU public employees in many states deliver
services in One Stop Centers, proving crucial employment services for the unemployed. These
members have assisted unemployed workers to receive unemployment benefits, trained job-
seekers, guided them through their job search, helped them acquire work-related skills, and
brokered the hiring process with employers. SEIU members know that strong workforce
programs can help the country emerge from this economic downturn by helping job seekers
gain the skills they need to find good jobs and earn a living wage. But in order to bolster the
current system of workforce development, Congress must ensure adequate federal funding as
well as preserve the successful delivery of employment services by the public sector, where
there is an emphasis on universal access to services.
Privatization of employment services short-changes those clients who face the greatest barriers as private contractors tend to focus on those workers easiest to place. A private
institution may fail to deliver services locally or fail to provide individualized services based on a
client’s unique needs—or may charge a premium to provide comprehensive services. Job
seekers with significant employment barriers, including seasonal workers, those with
disabilities, those in need of special accommodations, or those in rural areas; are likely to be
given short shrift under a privatized model.
In this time of economic crisis, the preservation of public sector delivery of employment services and the federal requirement that Wagner-Peyser Employment Services be delivered by
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civil service employees is crucial to WIA’s continued success. The reauthorization of WIA offers
an opportunity to codify this longstanding regulatory requirement in legislative language.
Reforms to WIA
Based on these innovations and successes of WIA, SEIU recommends these reforms which will strengthen WIA to create the robust workforce development system the country
needs to combat the record levels of unemployment and underemployment and to support
workers to succeed in a dynamic economy.
First, SEIU recommends fostering more partnerships at every level, and include labor and other community advocates in the planning and delivery of services. When workers belong
to a union, they have the opportunity to bargain for additional on-the-job training and other
educational and advancement opportunities. SEIU has formed many partnerships with
employers to invest additional resources in training, yet WIA does not reward these
partnerships and employers who invest in incumbent workers. These collaborations result in
career ladders that provide opportunities for noncollege educated workers to increase their
skills and their paychecks, and they open up entry-level positions for disadvantaged or
unemployed workers. In contrast to many training programs currently funded by WIA, SEIU
labor-management training programs almost always result in a real job at the end of successful
completion of training.
Specifically, SEIU recommends that you amend WIA to allow state and local boards to contract with labor-management training funds to provide occupational skills training, on-the-
job training and workplace training with related instruction, and/or skill upgrading and
retraining. This can be accomplished by amending the eligible criteria for training partners and
by allowing the governor to add labor-management training funds to the list of eligible entities
that are submitted for his approval by local boards.
Second, SEIU recommends that training resources be more focused on high-growth, high-demand sectors. SEIU supports sectoral strategies where WIA resources are used to target
identified needs and shortages in sectors that are growing and creating good jobs. For example,
our healthcare system suffers from chronic workforce shortages and employs too few workers
dedicated to prevention and primary care. Priority sectors should include healthcare and long
term care, child care and early education, and green jobs. WIA funding can be used not just to
alleviate a nursing shortage, but to grow a more diverse nursing profession and promote more
nurses working in underserved areas.
Third, SEIU recommends increased use of grants to fund training and educational entities. The WIA system should not continue to rely on Individual Training Accounts as the
primary mechanism to deliver services to eligible workers. Individual Training Accounts, for
example, are too small to support a nurse’s aide who has the motivation and opportunity to go
to nursing school. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, by contrast, offers workers displaced
by trade significantly more federal support than other displaced workers are eligible for under
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WIA. ITAs also do not promote proven learning strategies, such as cohort training. ITAs were created to offer additional choice, but they only offer the illusion of choice and generate high administrative costs. Low-wage incumbent workers who have demonstrated a strong
attachment to the workforce but need additional skills to access career ladders cannot easily qualify for ITAs.
Fourth, SEIU recommends increasing the percentage of funding allocated to statewide
activities. WIA currently allocates 15 percent of a state’s WIA funding to statewide activities.
Increasing this by 5 percent would allow governors to develop strategic plans for workforce development and have more authority to create larger initiatives and target funding to accomplish initiatives that address wage inequality and that can further sector strategies, such as a statewide initiative to upgrade the early childhood education workforce or an initiative to address the nursing shortage. Additionally, some incumbent workers are at risk of job loss due to changing technology or industry restructuring, and it may be more cost-effective to intervene before they become unemployed.
Fifth, SEIU suggests requiring greater coordination among other education and training
programs. Training dollars should be an integral component of broader strategies to promote economic development and alleviate poverty. SEIU supports a broader vision of education and lifelong skills building that can leverage student loans and Pell grants with WIA dollars and community college resources, for example. Federal child care subsidies should also be made available to workers who would otherwise be unable to continue their education and training. This kind of coordination is more feasible at the state level than at the level of local WIBs.
Finally, SEIU recommends that the Committee reform the structure of local WIBs as it
reauthorizes WIA. Many local WIBs lack a broad vision and real community representation, including unions and other advocates for workers and distressed communities.
SEIU appreciates the significant resources the Congress provided in the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act to modernize unemployment benefits, increase support for state employees to serve unemployed workers, and increase WIA funding and competitive
training grants during this extremely difficult economic time. SEIU looks forward to working with the Subcommittee, as well as the full Education and Labor Committee, to devise a
workforce development system that works for all workers.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.
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