Job-Training Law Expands Roles of Schools, Business
Washington--After nearly 10 years and expenditures of more than $50 billion, ceta (the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) became history last week when President Reagan signed a new employment and training bill to replace it.
The signing occurred within days after the Department of Labor released statistics showing that unemployment had reached 10.1 percent, the highest rate since the Great Depression, and at a time when Senators and Representatives were on the campaign trail facing voters deeply concerned about jobs.
It was also a week in which Newsweek, for only the third time in its history, took an editorial position--about jobs. Describing its cover story, the magazine told its millions of readers that "profound pressures are changing the nature of work and the work force" and said it was offering "a seven-point agenda for action to help put America back to work."
Federal Support System
Newsweek, the legislators who backed the new job-training program, and President Reagan, who signed it despite his earlier opposition to the measure, appeared to agree that some federal support system for Americans out of work was called for.
But experts on job-training admit they are uncertain whether the new bill--the Job Training Partnership Act--will be more effective than ceta in reducing the number of unemployed and welfare recipients. They generally agree, however, that the new employment and training legislation, which will cost an estimated $3.7 billion in the fiscal year 1983, offers educators greater opportunity than ceta did to participate in skill-training programs for the nation's economically disadvantaged young people and adults.
Gene Bottoms, executive director of the American Vocational Association, believes that vocational education's position under the new legislation will improve. "There is enough language in the legislation to suggest that vocational education will be an integral part of the job-training program," Mr. Bottoms points out.
The resources of local vocational systems are the logical choice for serving the economically disadvantaged, according to Mr. Bottoms. But he adds that "it will be up to local vocational educators to work and to build their case."
Stephen Cain, director of employment services for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, agrees that the education community will have to be assertive if it is to play a prominent role in job training. If local education agencies "want to be involved, they will have to know the legislation ... and to bargain for their position," he says.
Education agencies, according to Mr. Cain, will have a stronger voice at the state level but they will have "to carve out their roles at the local level."
The new legislation will channel its funding through block grants to the states, rather than sending it directly to local communities, as ceta had.
The jtpa requires representation by education officials on local governing councils, a provision Mr. Bottoms' group and others had fought for, and directs that about 8 percent of the governors' training funds go to state and local education agencies. Under ceta, education agencies received about 6 percent of the states' training funds.
Education agencies also will be required to match any grant awarded from the governors' funds, a provision that may result in better planning and coordination by vocational educators, according to Evelyn Ganzglass of the National Governor's Association.
Many school systems that participated in ceta over the years failed to "institutionalize" the program, Ms. Ganzglass says. But if a school system is prepared to "commit money and resources to a joint effort," she says, "it has a much better chance of becoming a part of the system."
The new bill promotes a sense of "ownership and makes employment and training much more a part of the mainstream" along with other school programs, "not just a project," she says.
"It's an entirely new situation," according to Mr. Cain. "It's not ceta with a new name."
"I think both the House and the Senate made an attempt at a bill that meets everyone's needs and one that the Administration would approve," Mr. Cain says. But he adds that the new training program will have "to do an awful lot to compare with ceta."
"For the type of training it provided," he adds, "ceta was a very successful program."
Several studies contracted by the Labor Department support that assertion. Well-managed ceta programs, according to those studies, were cost-effective and a large percentage of those who completed the training found jobs paying more than was earned by those who did not complete the program.
But ceta was attacked from many quarters, including the White House, because of reported abuses in the program. In addition, some objected to the minimum-wage salaries paid to participants enrolled in training programs and the placement of other ceta workers in public-sector jobs that provided questionable work experience.
Last year, the Administration eliminated the public-sector em-ployment program, which placed ceta-subsidized employees in many schools throughout the country, and proposed to correct other deficiencies through the new legislation.
The new Job Training Partnership Act should provide training for more economically disadvantaged persons because most of the money will go into training efforts rather than payments to workers, according to several people interviewed last week. Only under certain circumstances will the new program offer stipends, which accounted for almost half of some local ceta training budgets.
They also contend that the emphasis on private-sector involvement will generate skill-training programs that are more closely tailored to the needs of local business and industry.
With the current unemployment rate at more than 10 percent for adults and twice that for young people, the job-training program is expected to serve more than one million persons in the fiscal year 1983.
Under the new bill, each governor will be responsible for establishing the goals and objectives for job-training and placement programs within the state. To assist the governor in developing that plan, the legislation calls for the establishment of a state employment and training council, which will review all plans and coordinate activities with local private-industry councils (pics).
Those local councils will be responsible for managing training programs in cities of 200,000 persons or more. The "service-delivery" areas, as the legislation calls such regions, will be designated by each governor.
Communities with smaller populations will be permitted to form consortia in order to qualify for training grants.
Because of the legislation's emphasis on the involvement of local business and industry, a majority of the members selected for the pics will be leaders in the private sector. Other members will be selected from the educational agencies, economic-development councils, community organizations, and public-employment services.
Although the authority of the governors is clear in the new legislation, the U.S. Conference of Mayors is concerned because the jtpa does not define local authority. "It's a rather confusing relationship between the local elected officials and the private-industry council," says Mr. Cain.
Ms. Ganzglass argues, however, that the new legislation accommodates some of the changes that are needed in the current employment and training system. "The point is that if the local people don't agree on a plan, they won't get any money."
"We think it makes a lot of sense to run the programs through the states," Ms. Ganzglass adds. "It's not to usurp some of the local authority, but some things can be best administered on the state level."
To those familiar with the new legislation, there is also some evidence that it will promote program coordination between state and local agencies and the public and private sectors. For example, the job-training program's funding cycle will switch from Oct. 1 to July 1, the same as most other federal programs.
"That's a major improvement," according to Ms. Ganzglass. The National Governor's Association "has long argued for the change. ceta was simply out of synchronization," she says.
The change will mean more opportunity for "linkages" with other agencies and it will add stability to the employment and training system, according to Ms. Ganzglass.
"It will force people to look at their ongoing programs and make a commitment," she says. "The legislation has made a step forward to look at some problems in the system and provide some solutions."
Despite its strengths, however, the new legislation may dissuade some economically disadvantaged persons, who benefited from the income allowance provided under the old legislation, from participating, some experts suggest.
William R. Ross, the assistant director of adult occupational education services for New York City's public schools, concedes that the new law's limit on stipends will mean more money for training. But he questions whether those persons that the new law seeks to train will be able to afford to participate without some financial assistance.
Don Brannam, a vocational administrator for the Issaquah, Wash., school district 25 miles outside of Seattle, expresses concern that the new legislation may limit the participation of small school districts.
"I see the funds being more restrictive and in some cases so restrictive that it is going to be difficult to serve the targeted population," he said. "It's big-city legislation and most school districts serve small cities."
"They're going to have to work co-operatively with school systems," Mr. Brannam says. "The schools are not saviors, but it's an established system and it's a way of establishing a lifeline for some students who need a support system."
Other provisions of the new bill are as follows:
Adult and Youth Programs. Funds under this section of the law are to be used primarily for on-the-job training, job counseling, retraining, and other related services for disadvantaged youths between the ages of 16 and 21 and adults age 22 or older.
The law stipulates that not more than 10 percent of the participants may be displaced homemakers, handicapped persons, teenaged parents, school dropouts, older veterans, drug abusers, or those with limited English speaking abilty.
And it says that "priority shall be given in the selection of service providers to previously funded in-school and community based organizations which are both cost-effective and of demonstrated success ..."
The "Summer Youth Employment and Training Program" is also continued under the legislation to serve young people aged 14 and 15.
Dislocated Workers. Up to 25 percent of the employment and training funds may be reserved for use by the states to address the needs of workers who have lost their jobs because of changing economic conditions. This provision would provide, among other services, job training and relocation assistance to eligible persons. But state and local officials would be required to match the federal grant.
Special Programs. The legislation maintains several national programs for Native Americans, migrants and seasonal farmworkers. In addition, it continues the Job Corps, which provides education and living facilities throughout the country for economically disadvantaged young people between the ages of 14 and 22.
These programs would continue to be administered by local community-based organizations and educational agencies under contract with the Labor Department.
State Allotments. One third of the state's funds will be allocated on the basis of the number of unemployed persons within each "service-delivery area"; one third will go to localities with unusually large numbers of unemployed persons; another third will be allocated based on the number of economically disadvantaged persons.
Vol. 02, Issue 07