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Recovery for Some, Recession for Others

June 10, 2010

What is the state of workforce development in the National Capital Region?  Recently, a group of area funders, convened by The Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative and Washington Grantmakers,  got together to share our collective successes, challenges, and observations on the topic, and the takeaways were a mix of good – and not so good – news.  The bottom line is that, while the economy apparently is improving overall, the recovery we are experiencing thus far is a jobless one, and those workers hardest hit are among those who can least afford it.

What are some of the obstacles that low-wage and/or low-skilled workers face in our region?

– Lowest-income workers have been hit hardest by unemployment.   The majority of jobs lost were low-skill, low-wage positions in sales, food preparation, constructions, and security, representing half of unemployment in the District.

– The demand for adult literacy programming throughout the region is strong, but there are long wait lists at most programs due to funding shortages.

– Background checks are an increasingly common barrier for job applicants, particularly those with poor credit.

– While the health care, IT, professional services, hospitality, finance, and retail industries promise the most growth, at the same time some of those same fields – in particular, IT and professional services — are unlikely to produce many jobs accessible to low-skilled workers.

As the saying goes, “there is strength in numbers,” and by bringing funders together, The Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative is making a positive difference by connecting low-income workers to career pathways in key industries such as healthcare and construction; helping existing workforce programs maintain and expand their ability to provide services; promoting responsible stewardship of public dollars that fund workforce development programs and effective workforce policies.

But with unemployment hovering just below a staggering 30% in Ward 8 — one of DC’s poorest neighborhoods – there is much to be done, and no “silver bullet” will solve the problem alone.  By continuing to make thoughtful, well-informed and forward-looking investments on a regional scale, we and our funding partners will continue to bring opportunity to our neighbors who need it most.

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