Spring 2009

Lessons for a New Context: Workforce Development in an Era of Economic Challenge


The economic expansion and tight labor markets of the 1990s brought new attention to skill shortages, career paths, and the important linkages between economic and workforce development. The current economic downturn has muted this demand at the same time economic stimulus efforts like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) will provide new investments for workforce education, create jobs in transportation and health care, and spur new green industries and job opportunities.1,2 Many of these “middle skill” jobs will be within reach of lowand moderate-income communities if job targeting policies are matched with the industry-based skill training models developed in the 1990s. This article will highlight some of the lessons learned from the past two decades of workforce development and discuss how they could help to address the present labor market challenges.

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