Scaling Up What Works for Job-Driven Training

Traveling with Vice President Joe Biden is always a treat. His enthusiasm for the work we do, especially on issues directly related to strengthening the middle class, is palpable and infectious. It was on full display last week when I joined him on a trip to New Hampshire to showcase what the vice president described as, “training that doesn’t just teach you new skills, but training that aligns those skills with the employers’ needs.”

The vice president has been tasked by President Obama with leading a review of federal workforce programs – to ensure they are delivering on the promise of job-driven training for workers. There’s a lot that we’re doing right in job training, but there are also things we can do better. This trip to New Hampshire was all about seeing what was working well and learning how we can scale up programs that are helping people successfully climb ladders of opportunity.

Vice President Biden with Secretary Perez at a New Hampshire job center

From left: Elizabeth Lafontaine, Secretary Perez, Vice President Biden and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan at NH Works on March 25, 2014.

With nearly 2,500 brick and mortar locations around the country, and online resources available 24-7, the American Job Center network is the best way to connect ready-to-work Americans to the jobs employers are filling right now. During the height of the recession,  AJCs served as an emergency room for the nation’s job-seekers, administering the critical care necessary to help people get back to work. We dropped by the center in Nashua, N.H., (called NH Works), to meet with employers and employees participating in on-the-job training throughout the state.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of the graduates, Elizabeth Lafontaine. She is like so many others who did everything right to set herself and her family up for success. She got her degree from the University of New Hampshire and went to work for a financial services firm. But she was blindsided last July when the company where she had worked for eight years laid her off. Elizabeth needed help finding her path forward, and so she turned to the local AJC for help. They matched her up with a company looking to identify potential new-hires through on-the-job training and now Elizabeth is back working as a financial advisor. I’m confident she’s going to be one of the 96% of on-the-job training graduates across New Hampshire who land full-time jobs at the end of the program.

That’s because the  American Job Center network – and on-the-job training – is  just as valuable a resource for employers as it is for workers. Job seekers get the chance to show of their existing talents, learn new skills, and earn a living. At the same time, employers get help identifying qualified job candidates and receive financial assistance from the state for hiring and training them.

Earlier in the day Vice President Biden and I had the chance to visit one of those companies when we forst arrived in Mancheser. XMA Corp., a global supplier of radio frequency and microwave components, has sought help from NH Works to find qualified employees that will keep the company competitive.

In today’s global economy, education and skills are the key to punching your ticket to the middle class Helping people acquire those skills is a centerpiece of the president’s opportunity agenda. I’m excited about the road ahead, about working with the vice president to make sure our job training programs empower workers, strengthen businesses and allow our economy to continue to grow. 

Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec.

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