An Important First Step Toward Getting D.C. Residents Back to Work

Recent unemployment numbers show that one in ten D.C. residents looking for a job can’t find one. So it’s good news that the D.C. Council took an important step before breaking for recess to help residents get back to work.   On Tuesday, the Council passed emergency legislation to create a task force that will help launch a “workforce intermediary”— an organization to act as a broker between employers, workers, and training providers.

So how do intermediaries work?  First, workforce intermediaries interact with employers to understand their hiring needs.  Next, they work with training providers and community-based organizations to develop or fine-tune programs to meet those specific needs.  Intermediaries then help employers fill job openings by presenting them with program graduates or other qualified candidates.  Finally, intermediaries help workers keep the jobs they get by addressing issues that make work challenging, like child care.

Workforce intermediaries in other cities have been a win for both businesses and residents.  They help residents who need to upgrade their skills participate in training that leads directly to a job — which addresses a common complaint that residents who receive training often have no job offer at the end  —  and help those who already have skills find jobs.  Intermediaries also help employers recruit and retain qualified workers.  A workforce intermediary in D.C. would help ensure that our residents benefit from the city’s job creation efforts – some of which were highlighted by Mayor Gray at a June 27th press conference.

In a policy brief co-authored with DCFPI and the DC Employment Justice Center last fall, DC Appleseed urged the Mayor and Council to establish a workforce intermediary, and to start by convening stakeholders to guide its creation.  The task force called for in the newly passed legislation will do just that.  Leaders from business, philanthropy, organized labor, workforce development, and government will review successful workforce intermediaries in other cities and provide the Mayor with recommendations for starting a program here.  Support from these stakeholders at the outset will provide a strong launching pad for the intermediary.

But the hard work won’t end with the task force’s recommendations.  Getting the workforce intermediary up and running will require continued commitment from the city and the communities with which it works.  We look forward to the task force being the first of several steps taken toward creating a successful workforce intermediary here in the District.

Cross-posted at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s blog, The District’s Dime.

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