Magazine article Workforce Management

OBAMA, McCAIN TALK UP TRAINING

Magazine article Workforce Management

OBAMA, McCAIN TALK UP TRAINING

Article excerpt

But back in D.C., workforce retraining policies stall as Bush, Capitol Hill and labor diverge on funding.

On the presidential campaign trail, the leading contenders express support for federal worker retraining programs. But back in Washington, President Bush and both parties have acted during the last few months to pare workforce investment.

Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama outlined a plan in midFebruary to increase workforce development funding and reform the federal law that governs the programs.

During a South Carolina debate earlier this year, likely Bepublican standard bearer Sen. John McCain assured laid-off workers they would be retrained for information technology jobs if he becomes president.

Meanwhile, President Bush has proposed reducing federal workforce programs by more than $1 billion in his budget for the next fiscal year, according to the Workforce Alliance, an advocacy group.

Bush's move doesn't make sense during an economic downturn, according to Rachel Gragg, federal policy director for the organization. "To cut funding for education and training right now seems very shortsighted," she says.

Under Bushs plan, several training programs would be consolidated into one initiative called "career advancement accounts." The individual accounts, which have been previously rejected by Congress, are designed to give workers more control over retraining dollars.

The administration would spend $2.8 billion on the accounts. The separate workforce programs that would be rolled into them currently receive $3.6 billion.

Mason Bishop, deputy assistant secretary of labor for the Employment & Training Administration, says streamlining federal workforce programs into career accounts would eliminate bureaucracy and substantially increase annual training-from 189,000 workers to 600,000.

"We would like to provide better access to education and training," Bishop says. …

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