Peter Callstrom

— We all hear about the “skills gaps.” Gaps exist for many reasons. In the public workforce system, we are working tirelessly to overcome the disparity and to build skills that lead to great futures.

On July 19, President Trump signed an executive order “to prioritize and expand workforce development” with the goal of helping the “millions of men and women who have been on the sidelines the chance to find fulfilling work that lifts up them and their families.”

Good to hear. This is actually what the public workforce system does every day. With funding from the federal Department of Labor, augmented with other investors (e.g., state and local government, private sector and philanthropy) the workforce development system reaches more than 4 million jobseekers annually through a coordinated and professional network of 2,500 “America’s Job Centers.”

These centers provide an array of invaluable personalized services to support all job seekers with a focus on underserved populations and many with barriers to employment (i.e., people with disabilities, veterans, the homeless, currently and formerly incarcerated, young adults entering the workforce, and more).

Support is Available

Eugene Beronilla was laid off and had been looking for work for over a year. Even in an economy with low unemployment, it is hard to land the right job. “Not only did unemployment impact my finances and marketability for jobs, but the most damage was to my hope and self-esteem,” he said. “It’s a slippery slope because of sadness, fear, anger and even desperation.”

Eugene applied for dozens of jobs. Weeks turned into months. He worried that employers would assume something was wrong with him. He reached out to our local public workforce system career centers. “I learned there were so much support; job searches, résumé strategies and more,” Beronilla said.

The administration’s vision is threefold: Reorganize and consolidate existing resources through an interagency “National Council for the American Worker;” share information regarding the labor market; and ask businesses to sign a pledge to expand apprenticeships, increasing on-the-job training, and provide everyone with opportunities to obtain skills to secure stable jobs and careers.

Sounds good, right? Anything we can do to put people to work in quality jobs is a win for us all.

Equipping Job Seekers

However, let’s dig a little deeper. There is another gap here – no mention of the public workforce development system that provides invaluable skills development and job training – all free to our 4 million customers. In order to administer this efficient person-centered system, appropriate funding is required. Supporting our workforce is one of the best investments we can make with our taxpayer resources to boost the economy.