Thursday, January 07, 2010

Why do tax dollars pay for job training?

The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a press release announcing $100 million in grants to various entities for green jobs training.

Their announcement was promptly followed by various governors and congressmen touting the money in the individual states and districts, including one from our own Ted Strickland.

The source of the money is stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill (ARRA) - in other words, you and me and our descendents.

From the DOL:

The grants will support job training programs to help dislocated workers and others, including veterans, women, African Americans and Latinos, find jobs in expanding green industries and related occupations. Approximately $28 million of the total funds will support projects in communities impacted by auto industry restructuring.

From Gov. Strickland:

“This assistance will help Ohioans who may be struggling in the current economy to find jobs and long-term careers in our state’s growing green energy fields.”

So who is getting all this money? Unions - and their training centers. Ohio will be covered by several of the training programs, as highlighted below.

* The International Transportation Learning Center is getting $5 million. They are a non-profit with a board of 10 members. Four of the members are union officers, one is a former appointee of President Bill Clinton, one is the director of the center, three are managers of public transportation systems, and one is a former board member of a transit system. According to their own press release:

The grant will provide funding to train 3,640 participants for good jobs in the US public transportation sector...

If you read further, you'll see that the four locations utilizing the money have existing partnerships and training programs already in place. In fact, they claim to have already trained 16,000 individuals with $17 million in grants since 2001.

So here is my question: if they already have training programs available and people have already taken advantage of them, why must my tax dollars pay for any of this? If I want additional or new training, I have to go out and get it myself. Why aren't people who need better (or new) jobs expected to pay for their own training?

And what, exactly, is the demand for new public transit workers? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11 Edition, there is average to below average growth expected in this industry through 2018 primarily due to retirements and resignation for job advancement. Additionally, the average growth is in the primary field of school bus drivers.

While the BLS makes a projection that more people will use public transit in the future, that assumption is not supported by current public transit data. In fact, public transportation is reliant upon public funding and many systems are finding the recession has impacted them, just like everyone else. Of course, with taxpayers facing tougher financial conditions, it is unlikely that increased funding for public transport will be forthcoming in the near future.

So, if there are already training programs in place for such public transit workers and if the job growth in this area is average, why must I pay (through my taxes) for someone to get this training? Why can't the people taking the training pay for it themselves, if it's such a great deal? And, if their job prospects are good or average, can't the cost of their training come out of future earnings? Isn't that 'more fair' than expecting others to pay instead?

* The Institute for Career Development (ICD) Inc. will be getting more than $4.6 million to train 2,000 participants (displaced steelworkers) as "wind farm field technicians and maintenance workers, solar panel installers, or geothermal installers. Training in these fields will also prepare workers for employment in fields related to energy generation such as construction, HVAC, and home retrofitting."

The ICD, according to their website:

" a unique workforce training program for eligible members of the United Steelworkers.

We have a wide range of classes to meet any interest or skill level. Instruction ranges from basic skills, such as GED preparation, to graduate-level college courses. Steelworkers can also take personal enhancement courses, like photography and foreign languages, and a variety of classes that teach technical skills, such as plumbing, electrical wiring or small engine repair. The most popular course offerings are computer-related, and many Steelworkers earn certifications through the program."

By their own admission, these training programs are funded through a contractual obligation with participating companies. Depending upon the contract, the employers set aside around 15 cents for each hour worked and pay that into the program.

If these training programs are already paid for by the employers, why does the ICD need more than $4.6 million dollars of taxpayer funding?

* The Communications Workers of America (CWA) National Education and
Training Trust is getting just under $4 million to provide "provide 1,000 dislocated workers in auto impacted regions across Ohio with short term training opportunities in advanced manufacturing that are endorsed by manufacturing employers across the state."

According to the CWA website:

This Trust coordinates our apprenticeship and employment center referral projects. Certification and training update programs will also be provided through the Trust. We recently opened our first center in Fremont, California; and we expect to open the Cleveland, Ohio center this fall. Other CWA training sites will be considered based on the interest of employers and local representatives, provided methods can be put in place to fund our efforts.

From what I learned on their website, their training is offered to members and their families. They have links to employer contracts so members can determine if their particular training program is paid for or reimbursed by their employer and they have scholarships available for certain courses.

So why are tax dollars paying for "short term training opportunities in
advanced manufacturing" if there is already funding in place for the training? And, again, why can't the people who are benefitting from the training cover the costs, either up front or after they are employed?

* The International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry is getting $5 million to train 1,200 sheet metal workers careers "in energy efficient building construction, retrofitting, and manufacturing through a series of customized training courses that address the skills gap of the targeted workforce."

According to their website, the ITI trains its members in all aspects of the job. If preparing for 'green' industries is so critical, why aren't they already doing it? Why do they need customized training courses for 1,200 members? Why not just, as a matter of service to members, incorporate the 'green training' into the existing courses and make sure that all sheet metal and a/c workers are prepared?

Apparently, they do.

On their partner page of their website is this listing:

The National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) is a not for profit organization sponsored by the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). The mission of NEMI is to identify emerging markets and employment opportunities and to develop programs to capitalize on them. (emphasis added)

So what, exactly, will the $5 million purchase that isn't already available to members at their own expense?

* The Ohio Electrical Labor Management Cooperative Committee is getting $4.8 million to "provide training for 1,288 participants who will earn nationally recognized certificates from the National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (NJATC), as well as college credit through the University System of Ohio. The project will develop an operational manual to provide a step by step implementation model of the scope of work encompassed by the project."

I couldn't find a website or information on the Committee, but the Columbus Dispatch described it as "jointly run by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association."

(I put in a call to both the Governor's office and the DOL for more information and will update this post upon receipt.)

In May, NECA hosted politicians at open houses in their local training centers.

The Open House events showcased the "Green Jobs" curriculum recently published by the National Joint Apprenticeship Training Program (NJATC). The curriculum was developed to meet a growing demand for improved energy efficiency and conservation and projects incorporating renewable energy sources into their electrical systems.

NECA, together with the IBEW and the NJATC, has been extremely active in preparing its workforce to install solar photovoltaic panels, wind power turbines, and fuel cells to the same high standards as its traditional electrical work. The “Green Jobs” curriculum also includes building automation as an integral aspect of energy efficiency and conservation.
Nationwide, there are more than 300 JATCs co-sponsored by NECA chapters and IBEW local unions. Most now offer training in renewable energy technology, energy efficiency and conservation.

"This was an excellent opportunity for Congressional leaders to see first-hand how NECA and the IBEW are already training workers to do green energy jobs," Ferry said. "There's a clear national mandate on building green, and I believe that energy solutions are what really make buildings more environmentally-friendly and cheaper to operate."

So, again, the question remains: why are tax dollars are funding this training instead of the recipients?

Some of these programs are available only to union members and the union training centers will be the beneficiaries of the funds. I'm certain there were no political considerations in this decision.

But more than anything, I'm outraged that government - and unions - seem to believe it's better for everyone in the country if certain favored groups get their job training paid for by others. There are plenty of people who are motivated to enhance their skills to make them more attractive in the job market. Fortunately, most of them have made the decision and sacrificed in order to achieve this goal. They - and their children - are now being taxed so others can have for 'free' what they've worked so hard to attain.

While I'd still have a problem with the federal government spending money for job training, I'd find it a bit more palatable if these were loans to individuals and not grants. Loans, at least, need to be repaid (for the most part though some government loan programs now have 'forgiveness' clauses).

What most fail to understand, however, is that if the government didn't tax us so much at every level and opportunity, we'd all have the personal funds to pay for these things ourselves and not 'need' the government to do it for us.

But that would make us independent - and that's the opposite of what the politicians want.


Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...


It's just another bad example of an out of control congress throwing OUR money around like drunken sailors on shore leave, redistributing OUR wealth and buying votes & voters along the way.

That's what you get when those who don't pay taxes are allowed to vote on them. . .

Tim Higgins said...


Your research appears to point out that government funding is being provided to unions or union-sponsored organizations to train workers in union jobs or retain union workers in such jobs.

Instead of the scorn that should be heaped on such efforts and on both unions and the government for these self-serving actions, we are instead expected to dish out an equal or greater amount of praise. Instead of hiding these misdeeds in the shadows, as they deserve, our elected leaders trot them out in public to show them off.

It is a sad commentary on government in a time where "special interests" are so vilified by both sides of the aisle. In spite of the anger that this waste of our money engenders, thanks for illuminating the problem.

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