2016 Workforce Development Forum Wrap-Up

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On May 4, NCLR and some of the top business minds in the country convened the annual NCLR Workforce Development Forum in Las Vegas. The goal of the Forum was to help educate attendees on coming demographic shifts in the American workforce and their implications for the economy, as well as to provide best practices in integrating new American workers into the workforce. Attendees, stakeholders, experts, and corporate representatives spent two days discussing how employers and their employees can most effectively work together to create an efficient and conscientious workforce.

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Latino Unemployment on the Rise

Today’s jobs report from the Department of Labor confirmed anxiety over the state of Latino employment in the United States. Following a trend of declining job gains that began near the end of 2015, April added 160,000 jobs, following the addition of 245,000 and 215,000 jobs in February and March, respectively.

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We’re Hiring!

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We’ve got a number of positions we’re trying to fill in our Policy Analysis Center. Take a look and follow the instructions for submitting your application if you think you would make a good fit at NCLR!

Director Health Policy Project

Assoc Director, Policy Analysis Center

Education Policy Analyst

Policy Analyst

Best Practices in Workforce Development Case Management

This is an Affiliate guest blog post by Stephanie Noll, M.S.W., Mi Casa Resource Center, Denver, CO

Congreso Earn Center - May 15,2008

Effective workforce development training programs include modules that focus on job readiness, such as helping people write a strong resume, develop effective job search skills, prepare for interviews, and hone soft skills.  However, beyond a lack of workplace skills, many job seekers experience barriers that interfere with their ability to acquire or retain employment.  These barriers are often many and complex, such as a lack of affordable or accessible child or elder care, transportation, health care, or housing.  Other limitations might include a negative credit report, a criminal background, a history of chronic unemployment, or mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or unresolved trauma.  For this reason, Mi Casa Resource Center believes that intensive case management is a key component of any workforce development program to help participants achieve their full potential and sustained employment.

While it is true that many workforce development programs offer case management, Mi Casa lays a special emphasis on the quality and depth of the case management services it provides. One unique aspect of case management at Mi Casa is that case managers are trained professional social workers whose approach to case management is based on the core values defined by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics:  service, importance of human relationships, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, integrity, and competence.  The social work core values provide a foundation for best practices in workforce development case management, even for case managers who are not trained as social workers.

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Elevating Latino Budget Priorities on Capitol Hill

By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR

NCLR Vice President, Eric Rodriguez at the Capitol Hill briefing.

NCLR Vice President, Eric Rodriguez at the Capitol Hill briefing.

“We understand the defense budget strengthens us by protecting us from exterior threats and negative forces.  Defense protects the exterior.  Well, we secure your interior.  And that’s every bit as important,” said Nilda Ruiz, President and CEO of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), during a briefing held by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) on February 19, 2013.  The briefing, titled “Impact of Sequestration & Federal Budget Decisions on Hispanic Families,” was an opportunity to help congressional staffers get up to speed on Latino priorities in the ongoing federal budget debates.  Ruiz spoke in response to the proposed March 1 cuts to nondefense discretionary programs

NHLA Chair Hector Sanchez moderated the panel, which included Ellen Nissenbaum, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, Center for Budget & Policy Priorities; Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR; and Nilda Ruiz.  In addition to providing staffers with a thorough overview of the federal budget landscape, Nissenbaum highlighted the important role that refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit have played in strengthening working Latino families and increasing the educational achievement of their children.  Rodriguez reminded staffers that it is wrong to ask struggling Latino families to sacrifice health care, education, job prospects, and their children’s well-being, since they are already among those who have been hit hardest by the Great Recession.  He emphasized that NCLR will continue to ensure that the Latino voice is heard in Congress in order to prevent any more pain on workers and their families, who have already sacrificed so much.

APM, an NCLR Affiliate, is one of the many community-based organizations helping to build better futures for Latino families.  Ruiz helped put a face on the impact of the upcoming budget cuts by sharing a story of one of their clients, Norma Morales.  Norma has benefited greatly from APM’s services, such as housing counseling and job training, and has gone from being homeless to being a homeowner. Today she works for the president of Philadelphia’s City Council.  Ruiz underscored her visit to Capitol Hill and the need to stop the March 1 cuts because “APM and organizations like us form the ‘interior defense systems’ that keep this country strong, safe, and progressing in a universally beneficial way.”

Read more about what’s at stake for Latino families across the nation.

As Fiscal Cliff Draws Nearer, There Is No Time For a Plan B

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

This New Year’s, many Americans across the country will have quite a bit weighing on their minds at a time when they are supposed to be clinking champagne glasses and making their resolutions for 2013.  In less than two weeks, our country will go over the fiscal cliff, resulting in a tax hike for millions of Americans and severe funding cuts to education, health care, and housing programs, to name a few.  That is unless Congress and the Obama administration can reach a deal on the federal budget.

For a brief moment earlier this week, it appeared that both sides were willing to compromise.

But that glimmer of hope was fleeting, and it seems negotiations are at a standstill.  Republican leadership is now pushing “Plan B,” which the House will vote on tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Simply put, “Plan B” is bad for Hispanic families.  It fails to meet NCLR’s principles for a fairer federal budget.  The plan further reduces tax liability for those at the top while pushing working families toward poverty.

The wealthiest would be the big winners should this plan pass.  Under “Plan B,” millionaires would get an estimated $50,000 tax cut, while 25 million middle class families making less than $250,000 a year would see their income taxes increase by an average of $1,000 apiece.  And,millions would lose access to the Child Tax Credit, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which are valuable tools that help prevent many Latinos from falling below the poverty line.

All of this while also allowing the sequester to move forward, gutting critical investments in education, jobs, and housing.  For example, in many poor districts, where federal funding covers a substantial portion of their budgets, for every $1 million that a school district receives in federal funding, sequestration will take away $82,000.  For districts with disproportionately large Hispanic and Black populations, that loss could have devastating effects.

“Plan B” is not a viable option for Latinos or this country.  Thankfully, President Obama has already issued a veto threat.  However, that does not mean both sides should stop trying to reach an agreement.  We strongly urge House Speaker Boehner and President Obama to put America’s working and middle-class families ahead of politics.  We need a fair approach to deficit reduction where everyone pays their share.

We must end this stalemate.  Far too much is at stake for the American people.  Nobody wins if we go over the fiscal cliff, and the clock is almost up.

State job creation policies matter for Latinos

By Alicia Criado, Policy Associate, Economic and Employment Policy Project, NCLR

I recently received an email from Vicky, an NCLR supporter, who thanked me for reporting each month on how Latinos are doing in today’s economy.  She also shared that she is unemployed and has come to realize that being bilingual is not enough to help her land a job.  Vicky does not have postsecondary education has found that employers want the whole package in a worker:  adequate training, in-demand skills, and education beyond high school.

Many jobseekers like Vicky are keenly aware of what it takes to stand out in today’s job market, where the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is more than three to one.  Just over five years from now, in 2018, only 10% of jobs in the U.S. economy will be open to workers with less than a high school degree.  Yet today nearly two out of five (38.4%) Latino adults—and almost half of foreign-born Latino adults (47.5%)—do not have a high school diploma.  These facts are alarming given that by 2050 one in three American workers will be Latino.

It is not clear that the legislators who Vicky and approximately 12 million Latinos helped elect in 2012 understand the needs of the Latino workforce.  According to our latest report, Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic, legislators in South Atlantic states have made plans to create jobs without taking stock of the barriers that the burgeoning Hispanic labor force faces.  State policymakers are paying little to no attention to the intersections of local job creation policies and current state workforce development, immigration, and transportation systems.  Necessary investments in programs like basic skills training, which help Latinos successfully compete for jobs, are often overlooked.  Priority is placed on developing and expanding tax incentives to encourage companies to create jobs and endorsing actions like anti-immigrant legislation that hinder Hispanic workers’ access to employment.  These choices are to the detriment of workers and businesses alike, thus undermining job growth initiatives.

There is a need for significant policy adjustments at the state level to ensure that jobs in the fastest-growing industries are available to Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of workers.  Given the diversity of Latino workers, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when developing strategies to meet their unique needs.  This is especially true for Latinos in the South Atlantic.  Disproportionate numbers of Hispanics in the region possess limited formal education or English proficiency and largely have inadequate access to language training.  For example, among Latinos over the age of 25 in Georgia, 44.2% have not completed high school and 70.5% have limited English proficiency.  If we look at this same population next door in Florida, we find that just 26.3% do not have a high school diploma and 57.4% speak English less than very well.  Solutions and approaches must be tailored to local needs.

Now more than ever there is a need for policymakers to ensure that Latinos have a seat at the table to inform the job creation agenda at the state level.  The needs and concerns of the Hispanic community should no longer be an afterthought.  The early warning signs uncovered in Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic call for serious policy discussions on how to ensure that jobs are within reach for a broader share of workers and their families.  It is paramount that in this time of limited resources legislators endorse customized policy solutions that benefit employers and cultivate the workforce for years to come.  These discussions can’t wait because our economy won’t work without Latinos.

Read NCLR’s latest study, Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic, to learn more about the barriers that Latinos face in the labor market and why job creation policies are failing to maximize the employment potential of America’s rapidly growing workforce.  For more information, please contact Alicia Criado, Policy Associate at NCLR, at acriado@nclr.org.

Latinos Are Watching How Elected Officials Respond to the Fiscal Cliff

By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

NCLR hosted a national call today for leaders from the NCLR Affiliate Network, the NCLR Action Network, members of the press, and others engaged with the Hispanic community for a discussion on how to address the country’s budget challenges with a balanced approach that protects vulnerable families.  We were joined by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D–CA); Jason Furman, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; and Julie Rodriguez, Associate Director of Latino Affairs and Immigration for the White House Office of Public Engagement.  In case you missed it, the call was recorded and is available at www.nclr.org/federalbudget.

According to the exit polls, more than 12 million Latinos cast their vote last month.  Like all Americans, Latino voters went to the polls with the economy on their minds.  The Hispanic community has spoken, and they overwhelmingly favor a fair, balanced, and shared approach to deficit reduction.  More than 700 people signed up for today’s call, which shows that our community’s deep civic participation is continuing.  Hispanic voters are watching carefully to see how federal policymakers address the so-called fiscal cliff in ongoing debates on the federal budget.

NCLR Affiliates on the call wanted to know if lawmakers and the Obama administration will raise taxes on working families or gut critical investments in students and workers.  For example, Dixon Slingerland, Executive Director of the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles, raised the issue of unemployment among Latino youth, which is over 20 percent nationwide.  He stressed the importance of providing services for Latino disconnected youth who are interested in returning to school or finding work.  Dixon made a strong case for policymakers to shift their focus to a major jobs package to address the persistent unemployment crisis.

Cynthia F. Figueroa, President and CEO of Congreso de Latinos Unidos, based in Philadelphia, pointed out that poverty and inequality have risen greatly over the last four years in our nation’s urban centers.  Parents are working multiple part-time jobs or low-paying full-time jobs to make ends meet.  In this economy, the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit have been lifelines to Latino families and children.  She pressed the White House to stand firm and not sacrifice these potent antipoverty tools.  Figueroa also highlighted the importance of investing in kids and maintaining important funding for education programs that our youth need.

Olivia Mendoza, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization in Denver, shared that one in four Latinos in Colorado and two-fifths of children statewide rely on Medicaid for vital health coverage.  It is no secret that Medicaid is a prime target for cuts.  She asked how the White House would protect the gains won through the Affordable Care Act.

Finally, Stephen Torsell, Executive Director of Homes on the Hill in Columbus, Ohio, called attention to the ongoing fight against foreclosures and vacant and abandoned properties in his state.  He asked how the administration aims to preserve funding for vital housing and financial coaching services such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Counseling Program, which has been to be one of the most effective ways of preventing unnecessary foreclosures.

NCLR appreciates the time that the White House staff took to respond to these questions and others by leaders serving Hispanic families.  We hope the administration and Congress take notice of the issues put on the table by those closest to the community.

Latinos sent President Obama back to the White House because of his commitment to fighting for working families.  The fiscal cliff is his first opportunity to act on those campaign promises.  We all agree that something must be done to lower the federal deficit.  However, it is wrong to ask working families to sacrifice education, health care, and their children’s well-being to give tax breaks to people and corporations that do not need them.  Smart investments in education, jobs, and housing will help hardworking families move up the economic ladder—and that will benefit us all.  This is our vision of a fair economy where prosperity is shared by everyone and the most vulnerable among us are protected.

Paving the Future of Transportation Policy: What Congress Smoothed Over, and Where the Potholes Remain

By Catherine Singley, Senior Policy Analyst, Economic and Employment Policy Project

Like all Americans, Latino voters place jobs and the economy at the top of their list of concerns this year. The transportation sector alone directly employs more than one million Latinos. That’s why NCLR was pleased that Congress reauthorized comprehensive surface transportation policy on June 30, just hours before the current extension of transportation policy was set to expire. The legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21, was signed by President Obama on July 6 and will be active until September 2014.
While the effect of the reauthorization on the economy will be positive, it will likely be a bumpy road for the next two years. Here’s why.

NCLR identified four policy priorities for Latinos in transportation reauthorization:

  • Improve job opportunities for Latinos in the transportation sector
  • Ensure authentic community involvement in local transportation planning and decision-making
  • Defend public transportation as a vital lifeline
  • Promote safety for pedestrians and bikers.

By these measures, the final legislation is bittersweet. While preserving some of the positives from the carefully-crafted Senate bill passed in bipartisan fashion in March, the law still contains “potholes” that could imperil Latinos and other communities of color.

First, the final bill includes funding for bike and pedestrian projects, but lawmakers left the decision about how to spend these funds up to the states. In other words, states and local areas could divert money from the construction of a desperately-needed pedestrian bridge to construct a new highway onramp.

A second NCLR priority, transportation enhancements, or Safe Routes to School, was cut completely in the compromise. This is disappointing, since we know that minority and low-income communities rely the most heavily on safe biking and walking routes, and account for the majority of pedestrian deaths.

Finally, NCLR is concerned that the new law could undermine public participation in the transportation planning process, which all too often excludes voices from the populations most directly affected by transportation decisions: minorities, low-income communities, and people with disabilities. Policymakers adjusted the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, to speed up some aspects of transportation planning, at the risk of bypassing vulnerable communities altogether. While not as extreme as some of the environmental “steamrolling” proposals that cropped up earlier in the debate, the language in the final bill sets a negative precedent for democratic participation in local decision-making.

Two years is welcome for a sluggish economy but a blink of an eye for policymaking. NCLR is committed to monitoring implementation of transportation reauthorization and helping to pave the way for strong legislation in 2014.