Why we must protect worker training from effects of the fiscal cliff
By Katie Dupont
Katie Dupont is a graduate of Anoka Green!, a training program organized jointly by the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation and Anoka Technical College.
In commercial after commercial and speech after speech during the election cycle, we heard about the state of America's economy. We were reminded how bad it has been and how, slowly, things are beginning to improve. Like so many, I knew what looking for a job was like.
Since graduating from high school in 2010, I've had several different food service jobs, but thanks to funding given by the state and federal government, I'm now working full time at Bell Manufacturing in Golden Valley after completing coursework at Anoka Technical College in Precision Sheet Metal.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to take part in this program. For that reason, I was concerned when I learned that this is the very type of worker-training program that could be reduced or eliminated if the currently scheduled automatic cuts to the federal budget take effect. The loss of these programs will make it harder for people like me to get the training we need to find new jobs.
Currently, even with 12 million people out of work, 49 percent of employers say they cannot find qualified job applicants to fill their 3.5 million job vacancies. They are looking for people with a specific set of skills. Many of these jobs, especially in manufacturing, do not require a four-year degree, but they do require training past high school.
Accordingly, 9 million Americans turned to job-training programs in 2010. These programs, like the one that helped me take coursework at Anoka Technical College, give people the opportunity to learn the skills employers need so they can go into job interviews with a new sense of confidence.
That is why the pending across-the-board budget cut to workforce training is so dangerous. It could happen because, back in 2011, Congress and the president agreed on the Budget Control Act of 2011 to end the debt-ceiling crisis. While a flat cut to all discretionary spending might sound like the good and fair way to cut the federal deficit, we need to ensure the programs most important to continuing America's economic recovery are protected. That especially applies to programs that are helping unemployed people get back to work.
The past few years have shown us that unemployment can hit anyone. It seems everyone has a family member or a friend who has been unemployed, and many people have their own personal stories about when they found themselves without a job. My Anoka Green! class was filled with people like me who were doing their best to find their next job but hadn't had any luck. Because we were able to take part in this training program and learned how to work with sheet metal, many of my friends and I are now back at work receiving good pay.
Sheet metal was not something I had previously looked at for a job, but because I had a chance to try it, I quickly realized how much I loved working with my hands. Everyone deserves the chance to find something they love that can help put them back to work.
Yes, it is clear that some tough decisions need to be made regarding the federal budget, but worker training is not the place to cut. Not if we truly want to get America working again.