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Blog: A Down Payment on Expanding Opportunity for America's Long-Term Unemployed


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As part of his plan to build an economy where everybody who is willing to work hard and take responsibility can get ahead, President Obama is focused on doing everything we can to create new jobs here in America -- while also connecting more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.

That's why this week the administration announced the availability of applications for $150 million in "Ready to Work Partnership" grants designed to help those facing long-term unemployment upgrade their skills and build bridges to jobs in growing areas like information technology and advanced manufacturing. These competitive grants will support partnerships between employers, nonprofit organizations and America's public workforce system that not only continue building the pipeline of skilled workers, but do so by helping the long-term unemployed overcome some of the barriers they face in finding jobs.

The simple fact is that as our economy has recovered, the long-term unemployed still face particular challenges in getting back to work. Even as the overall unemployment rate has fallen, the long-term unemployed rate remains near its historic highs. And research shows that even when the long-term unemployed have the same -- or even greater -- experiences and skills in their field, they are less likely to get called back for interviews than workers who have been out of work for shorter periods of time.

These Americans are working every day to try to find a new job, sending out resume after resume, applying for every position for which they might be qualified. And as President Obama made clear in his State of the Union, we cannot afford for them to be on the sidelines. That's why, in January, he brought together employers who were among the 300 companies -- including 80 of the nation's largest -- who agreed to best practices around hiring and recruiting the unemployed, so that they get a fair shot when they look for jobs. And that's why we are working to support successful partnerships that help connect the long-term unemployed to work.

The good thing is that there are innovative efforts across the country that -- by leveraging partnerships between employers, nonprofits, and the workforce training system -- have shown success in providing the support that "ready to work" Americans need to get back to work. Sometimes this requires just a modest investment to get their skills in line with the needs of local businesses -- a new certificate that showcases their skills; a training course in the latest manufacturing software; or a class on the latest techniques or advancements in an evolving field of work.

These new "Ready to Work Partnership" grants are designed to support these efforts, building up models that we know work. Programs will start with a strong up-front assessment, where training needs are identified early and workers are put on a sound path to re-employment. Grantees will lean on the best-of-the-best from the workforce system -- models like on-the-job training, paid work experience, paid internships and Registered Apprenticeships -- to ensure that participants learn the specific skills, and are familiar with the specific equipment required for open jobs. These grants will build on existing efforts the administration has taken to help train the long-term unemployed through partnerships between employers, training providers and others -- like the multi-agency Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which helped prepare workers employed by Fulton Cos., a manufacturer in Pulaski, N.Y., that Secretary Perez visited Wednesday.

These "Ready to Work Partnership" grants will help the long-term unemployed develop skills and prepare for jobs, but connect them to employers looking for skilled workers. That's good for workers. That's good for businesses. That's good for America -- and these grants are a down payment on expanding opportunity for all by giving the long-term unemployed a fair shot.

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