Jobs Aren't Enough: Toward a New Economic Mobility for Low-Income Families

By Roberta Rehner Iversen; Annie Laurie Armstrong | Go to book overview

5 Workforce Development

Systems and Networks

Without a start, there is no finish.

—Kevin McDonalds, Milwaukee


WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: PAST AND PRESENT

As the previous two chapters show, the parents and children in this book exhibit strengths and competencies. Like millions of families in the United States they also contend with personal and labor market challenges that constrain their ability to support their families through work. Based on the old mobility paradigm assumption that acquisition of human capital is the key to labor market success, job seekers like these parents often intersect with “workforce development systems,” which are the focus of this chapter.

Three main routes are available to persons who seek to expand their pre- and postemployment knowledge and skills: four-year colleges; two-year community colleges; and a scatterplot of public, nonprofit, and for-profit programs for those not wishing or eligible for “college.” Each of these routes can be accessed directly through the national system of One-Stop Career Centers or through a regional or local workforce development network. Actually, many community college programs overlap with public and private programs, serving some youth and adults who will transfer to a four-year college, other youth and adults who enroll for vocational credentials, and—again overlapping—still other youth and adults who need remedial and specialized programs to compensate for inadequate or incomplete secondary education before they can advance to higher education or skill training. General Educational Development (GED), English as a Second Language (ESL), and Adult Basic Education (ABE) are the most common compensatory programs. This complex array of employment-related programs constitutes the landscape for the parents and their families here as they pursue economic mobility through both preemployment and postemployment efforts. To the extent that these programs are interconnected through the national system of One-Stop Career Centers, they are known as the “workforce development system.”

We ask several questions about this workforce development system in relation to its role in economic mobility. What is the history of the system and how does that history guide the present? How is the system configured under recent welfare and workforce legislation? At regional and local levels, what additional or alternative workforce development networks and programs are available to job seekers like these parents, and how do the parents experience them? Finally, how can workforce development systems and networks be further structured and positioned to improve family economic mobility?

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