Two-Year Colleges' Role Grows Under Job Act

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Washington--As state officials continue preparations for the start of the new federal job-training program next month, the results of a recently released survey suggest that community colleges will have a greater role in providing skills training because of a change in the way state officials say they will use their special training grants.

But that expanded role, according to the report, is apparently causing tension between secondary and postsecondary schools that are in competition for the special funds.

The report, "Tracking the Transition: Part II," was sponsored by the National Commission for Employment Policy, a 15-member panel created under the Job Training Partnership Act (jtpa) to make recommendations to the Congress and the Reagan Administration on employment and training issues, and to monitor the implementation of the new job-training program.

Produced in cooperation with the National Governors Association, the report is based on telephone interviews with officials in all 50 states and 11 on-site visits in five states.

The jtpa, which was enacted last year to replace the Comprehen-sive Employment and Training Act (ceta), is scheduled to begin Oct.1. The new law shifts most of the management responsibilities for the new program to the states and local governments, in partnership with private employers, and limits the federal role to oversight and technical assistance.

For the fiscal year 1984, the Administration has proposed a jpta budget of $3.65 billion. In previous years under ceta, the employment and training budget has been more than $12 billion.

'Service Delivery Areas'

Under the new law, one-third of each state's grant will be allocated on the basis of the number of unemployed persons within "service delivery areas" designated by the state; one-third will go to localities with unusually large numbers of unemployed persons; and another third will be allocated based on the number of economically disadvantaged persons.

The report notes that states have made "commendable progress" in preparing for the start of the new program but cautions that generalizations about their degree of preparedness are not possible based on the survey.

"To draw sweeping conclusions from such an unscientific sampling of opinions would be clearly inappropriate; still, responses from state staff tend to suggest heavy state-level emphasis on program oversight and coordination, relatively less emphasis on policy development, and even less immediate emphasis on topics related to performance and capacity-building," the report explains.

All but one of the states, according to the survey, either have programs already underway to address the training needs of dislocated workers or plan to start them. The jtpa provides that up to 25 percent of the training funds may be reserved for use by the states to provide, among other services, job training and relocation assistance to eligible people. But state and local officals will be required to match the federal grant.

In releasing the report last month, Kenneth Smith, chairman of the policy commission, said: "The states and private employers, though faced with tight timetables, have a real sense of ownership in the [jtpa]. For the first time," he added, "many governors are seeing job training for low-income people as part of a larger policy picture involving improvements to education and ties of training to state and local economic efforts."

Of the 32 states with nearly complete plans, according to the report, about 20 said they expected the grants to state education departments to be used differently under the jtpa than in previous years under ceta.

About half of the 20 states said they expected their community colleges to participate more fully than in the past.

Other states, the report notes, expected to see the state education co-ordination grants changed because they intend to rely on competitive bidding or launch new programs.

"In several states, however, clashes appeared to be brewing between secondary and postsecondary training institutions in competition for special funds," the report states.

Under the new law, state education agencies are to receive 8 percent of the state's allocation. The money is intended to support the coordination of training programs administered by local school districts.

Vol. 03, Issue 01

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