ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation, today commended President Obama for his initiative to launch an “across-the-board reform of America’s [job] training programs,” as announced in his fifth State of the Union speech, given January 28, 2014. The President declared this initiative the opportunity to “train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.”
“The President's job training initiative is strikingly reminiscent of a similar commitment he made in 2012, which was to launch a national training program to equip two million Americans with the skills necessary to lead directly to jobs,” says Kevin Morgan, interim president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “We hope two years later, this initiative comes to fruition and includes training for the 36 million American adults who function at the lowest levels of literacy, unable to read, write, or do basic math above a third grade level. These individuals need resources and services to improve their basic skills that will then enable them to achieve higher levels of sustainable employment and college preparation.”
“We know that approximately 61 percent of American employers say it is difficult to find qualified workers to fill vacancies,” continues Morgan. “On top of that, American employers spend more than $125.9 billion annually on training, including remedial reading, writing, and math skills. To successfully implement a comprehensive job training program, we must also address and invest in adult literacy and basic education programs.”
“A logical place to start with the President’s national training initiative is reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act, which provides job training funds for adults, disconnected and underemployed workers, and youth, and is the major source of federal funding for adult literacy and basic education programs,” says Morgan.
The U.S. Department of Labor has set a literacy/numeracy gains target of 38.6 percent, and cites the unemployment rate for those with the lowest literacy skills at 12.4 percent, almost twice the national average of 6.8 percent. Further, those with the lowest literacy skills earn approximately 55 cents to the average worker’s $1.00.