By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — For those Americans who’ve been out of work for months or years, they have no better friend than the federal government.
That’s the message of U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who recently stated in an interview that the best way to end unemployment is for the federal government to fund more students going to college and more job training services.
“We have a large population of unemployed who need to have more preparation,” she told Florida Watchdog at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. “It doesn’t mean you have to go get a four-year college degree. But they can do that by getting a smaller degree or credentials. That will take them six months or two years.
“But we are ready to give them information and services,” said Solis.
She also added that certain groups are often unaware of the federal government’s free services.
“There are 3,000 job centers in the country. We have training programs for young people aged 16 to 24 years old. They can enter programs like Youth Bill, or Jobs Corps,” said Solis, referring to job training programs signed into law by President Barack Obama during the first few months of his presidency.
But in the experience of at least one young man, these job training programs are wastes of money that over promise and under deliver.
John Silva, 33, of Miami, first lost his job when the television station where he worked closed without notice. He proceeded to look for a job in the communications field for more than a year without success, picking up real estate classes on the side and hoping it would lead to a job — a hope that never materialized.
Desperate and set to lose his unemployment benefits, Silva told Florida Watchdog that he became aware of a program at the South Florida Workforce Agency, the organization which oversees federally funded jobs programs in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
The organization told Silva that it would train him for an industry that had significant labor demand, sending him through a program called Educational Scholarships and Retention Incentive Training Accounts, a “training module that facilitates career development in high demand occupational areas,” according to the agency’s website.
These programs receive a total of nearly $300 million per year in federal grants, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency tasked with allocating the funds as stipulated by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.
These “training accounts” only can be used in institutions officially recognized by the federally funded Agency Workforce, including Miami-Dade County Public Schools or private and vocational schools.
Through this program, Silva participated in training classes in theater and entertainment technology, aided by a $5,000 federal grant.
The classes totaled nearly $9,000 with the cost of books and supplies.
Silva told Florida Watchdog that he now works a formal administrative job at a local Miami college for minimum wage, unrelated to his training program, and is looking for other work.
“I think this is a way to keep people busy and promise something they ultimately won’t be able to fulfill,” said Jorge Salazar Carrillo, professor of economics at Florida International University in Miami. “We’re seeing that now once they graduate.”
“The government should give credits for investments in order to reduce the tax burden or subsidies so they can create jobs. And make regulations much more flexible,” said Carrillo.
“It is companies that generate employment and are in need of help in order to create jobs. It would not be a permanent solution, but temporary.”
Spanish-language interview with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis:
Contact Marianela Toledo at [email protected]
Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.