Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs Denounces Efforts to Eliminate Targeted Job Training for America’s Farmworkers and Other Vulnerable Jobseekers
June 7, 2012, Washington, D.C. —Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to mark up the Republican-sponsored “Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012” or H.R. 4297. Education and job training experts from around the country have joined together in opposing the proposed bill, which seeks to completely restructure the federal job training programs and abolish those programs targeted at serving the most vulnerable groups of jobseekers. H.R. 4297 also effectively eliminates competition by simply doling out federal money to state governors in a fashion similar to a block grant.
“Proposals to consolidate workforce programs in the name of reducing the public sector’s role would leave Latino workers, such as farmworkers, not to mention veterans, the disabled, and other groups in need of specialized services, stuck in low-skill and low-wage jobs,” said Emma Oppenheim, Associate Director of Workforce Development Policy Initiatives at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). “These proposals ignore the job openings going unfilled, ignore the industries unable to take new products to market, and ignore the American workers who, with the right investments, could make our economy hum.”
The goal of H.R. 4297 is to create one system, relying on a one-size-fits all model of service. If implemented, it would likely act as a disincentive to training hard-to-serve individuals whose training will likely require more resources and money. Farmworkers are among the lowest paid workers in the country, earning an average of just $17,500 per year for a family of four, well below the national poverty line, according to the Department of Labor. They are also subject to frequent unemployment and underemployment as a result of the unpredictability of weather and, consequently, crop failure. Finding more stable, higher paying positions, both in and outside of agriculture, is difficult due to a lack of training and education (farmworkers have a median 8th grade education level), transportation, work history, and access to other industries in rural locations. Accordingly, the federal job training program for migrant and seasonal farmworkers authorized under the current Workforce Investment Act, is an essential service to many farmworkers who, without it, may not be able to access the resources and opportunities it provides.
The bill would also impact agricultural and local business sectors that benefit from having a well-trained workforce pool.
“This is the worst time to eliminate targeted programs that serve farmworkers and the most in-need of our country’s jobseekers. It is the most awful recession most of America has experienced in their lifetime,” notes David Strauss, Executive Director of Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs. “H.R. 4297 just doesn’t work if our goal is to get Americans employed. Our economy and our workers require a greater investment in job training in order to get the skills they need to compete in this tough employment market.”
The Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs is the national federation of non-profit and public agencies that provide training and employment services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. For additional comment or interview, please contact Ayrianne Parks at (202) 828-6006 x140 or Parks(at)AFOP(dot)org.