Investing in Washington’s Workforce
Emerging out of the recession with our economic competitiveness intact will require an investment in workforce training. As the economy begins to grow, we will need to have workers whose skills match up with the needs of employers in the fields of green energy, health care, life sciences, accounting, and engineering.
The Worker Retraining Program, operated through our state’s community and technical colleges, provides training for dislocated and unemployed workers to gain the new skills and knowledge needed to successfully re-enter the workforce. The program pays for instructors, curriculum, as well as financial aid that helps pay for tuition, books, fees, and other related expenses for individuals who lost their jobs due to economic changes.
The program is effective. Over 80% of participants find jobs within three quarters of completion.* Workers who were in high paying jobs were able to recover 87% of their previous income within that time period. Workers who were in lower wages job were able to recover 118%.*
The graph below, from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, shows how enrollment in the program has spiked along with the unemployment rate and is expected to increase to 16,000 by 2010-11.*
In response to the growing need, Governor Gregoire has proposed funding the Worker Retraining Program for an additional 2,500 (FTE) Washington workers. This is a step in the right direction, but it still leaves thousands of unfunded slots and other applicants being turned away. And at the same time, her budget proposes other reductions in funding for community and technical colleges on top of last year’s cuts that will strain their ability to provide education and training. Additionally, deep cuts in health care, child care, and other areas will also harm workers.
Maintaining our edge in a growing and changing economy will require a state budget that invests in Washington’s workforce.