Achievement through apprenticeships: The department is working hard to strengthen the school-to-workforce pipeline through proven training models, such as apprenticeships. To highlight the administration’s commitment to expanding these models, especially for young people, Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu spoke at the “Closing the Excellence Gap” summit luncheon on Feb. 26 in Washington, D.C. Hosted by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the Coalition of Leaders for Advanced Student Success, the luncheon featured Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and brought together business leaders and high school principals to discuss ways to help high-performing, low-income students. “At the Department of Labor, we are proud of our work supporting and expanding opportunities for young people,” Lu said. “And we will continue to find ways to scale up innovative education and training models to help more of America’s youth succeed in their careers.”
In search of industry experts for apprenticeship opportunities: A Request for Information seeking industry experts to expand apprenticeship has been issued by the Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship. The agency proposes to award multiple contracts to assist industries in launching multi-employer apprenticeship models that address the talent needs of those industries and increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities available nationwide. This effort will help establish approximately 10 intermediaries to serve in leading roles in the Sectors of Excellence in Apprenticeship, a new industry-led apprenticeship initiative. Intermediaries will partner with the department to support employers, industry associations, joint labor-management organizations, educational institutions and others in developing and/or expanding registered apprenticeship programs. Responses to the RFI are due by March 11.
Opening doors with Job Corps: For more than 50 years, Job Corps has been empowering young people and strengthening communities across the country. At the National Job Corps Association’s annual training conference on March 3 in Arlington, Va., Deputy Secretary of Labor Lu discussed how the department is preparing the nation’s youth for the careers of today and tomorrow. He highlighted the importance of apprenticeships, career and technical training, and private-sector partnerships. Lu thanked the Job Corps center directors and business and community partners in attendance for their hard work, saying, “At Jobs Corps, young people can find renewed hope and a second chance. Places where doors of opportunity had been bolted shut are now unlocked and opened wide.”
Protecting Wages and Benefits
Strategic enforcement works: Addressing senior staff at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C., on March 2, Wage and Hour Division Administrator Dr. David Weil discussed how federal agencies can use their limited resources strategically to increase the impact of the work they do. Strategic enforcement, Weil noted, means directing limited resources to where the data and evidence show labor violations are most likely to occur, and where workers are vulnerable and often reluctant to raise their voices and exercise their rights. “We know from our data that strategic enforcement is working,” Weil said. “Even though we have increased our focus on low-wage industries, the average back wages we have found per worker have continued to climb.”
Workers in the new tech economy: Representatives from the Women’s Bureau and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs participated in an all-day symposium Feb. 26 in Berkeley, Calif., to discuss the tech-centered economy and issues related to employer/employee relationships, workplace regulation, worker vulnerability and diversity. Attorneys, advocates, academics and organizers tackled the issues through a series of panel discussions, with OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu sharing information about Executive Order 11246. That order requires federal contractors to develop a plan to encourage diversity in companies holding federal contracts. The Women’s Bureau also facilitated a discussion focused on gender and race in the tech economy.
Chinese restaurateurs on the Hill: In an effort to educate Chinese restaurant employers about the Fair Labor Standards Act, Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Chris Silva, along with investigator Bill Zhang, attended the Second Annual National Meeting of the American Chinese Culinary Federation on Feb. 24. Nearly 100 Chinese restaurant owners from across the country traveled to the U.S. Capitol for the event, where Silva addressed federation members about the FLSA issues that impact the restaurant business. Rep. Grace Meng of New York and Rep. Judy Chu of California also attended.
Satellite office better serves farm labor contractors: The Wage and Hour Area Office in Fresno, Calif., celebrated the grand opening of a new satellite office on March 2 that will better serve the area’s contractors who provide agricultural labor to growers and packers. California’s Central Valley is home to the largest concentration of farm labor contractors in the United States, with nearly 1,500 registered contractors so far this year, and counting. Prior to the opening of the Fresno satellite office, farm labor contractors were forced to travel three to four hours to San Francisco to meet with a compliance specialist. According to Regional Wage and Hour Administrator Ruben Rosalez, the new office “isn’t just a place to fill out forms, it’s all about safety.” The office will help ensure employers pay workers proper wages and provide safe housing and transportation to and from job sites.
In Other News…
Integrating new Americans into workforce system: Miami recently played host to the regional convening of the White House Task Force on New Americans. The Feb. 26 meeting highlighted best practices and ways to integrate new Americans into the workforce system. It came on the heels of a task force report detailing how agencies play a major role in educating workers about the protections enforced by the department. Staff members from the Employee Benefits Security Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Wage and Hour Division, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs represented the department, answering questions from more than 60 stakeholders that work with immigrant communities. “Across the Department of Labor we have been doing extensive work with low-wage and vulnerable workers to let them know that if they are workers in this country – no matter where they are from, what their immigration status is or what they do for work – they are protected in the workplace by the laws that the department enforces,” said Robert Angelo, the regional representative of the secretary of labor.
Bridging the employment gap for people with disabilities: To commemorate its 25th anniversary of empowering youth with disabilities, the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation held a summit in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 25. Among the speakers was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy, who addressed the gap in employment for people with and without disabilities. Sheehy discussed ODEP initiatives to bridge that gap through increased access to career training programs, including apprenticeships. “Like all young people, youth with disabilities must grow up expecting to work and succeed, and this expectation must be echoed by all people of influence in their lives,” Sheehy said. “These expectations must then be matched with opportunities to learn about their individual potential through practical experience.” MEAF funds a variety of projects to empower youth with disabilities to lead productive lives through employment.
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