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Testimony of Charissa Raynor

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26 Feb 2009Especially in today's economic climate, the joint labor-management Training Partnership plays a critical role in Washington's overall

    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”

    Raynor Testimony Page 1

    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 unionsoften 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.

    Raynor Testimony Page 2

    Long term care and hospital employers across Washington are experiencing serious

    workforce shortages that are expected to worsen as baby boomers agesimultaneously reducing workforce supply and increasing demands on our healthcare systemsfrom entry-level, career track long term care jobs to high demand hospital jobs. At the same time, many

    poor and low-income individualsoften women of colorhave 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

    economy.

    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 programthis 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 sectorfrom 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 Toola virtual entry point for

    community-based organizations to help job seekers access a customized career track

    Raynor Testimony Page 3

    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.

WIA Successes

    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

    Raynor Testimony Page 4

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

    Raynor Testimony Page 5

    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.

Conclusion

    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.

Raynor Testimony Page 6

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