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William Crane OfThe Skanner
Published: 17 September 2008

The Workforce Development Council and other job training programs are being forced to cut back their services in light of million dollar deficits.
The county has won $9.5 million from the statewide Employment Security Department to bolster workers' skills and help connect them to better jobs.
The agency's yearly grant, however, is $1 million less than the council received last year. The Employment Security Department, which receives the funds from the federal Department of Labor, also received $3 million less on the state level. "We've had to cut back our programs," said Margret Graham, a planner for the Workforce Development Council of Seattle King County. "We've received less for the past five years."
Coming during the country's economic downturn, a decrease in funding is squeezing the council to do more with less. With unemployment rates rising, the demand for re-training workers or the unemployed has increased.
"We've had to become more creative with less staff people," said Graham. "There is always more need than we can meet."
On the national level, the Workforce Initiative Act (WIA) has distributed $3.35 billion dollars for the 2008 fiscal year for employment training programs across the country. This is compared with $3.41 billion in 2007 and $3.93 billion in 2006.
"With regard to WIA funding levels for training over the past few years, they have fluctuated," said a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor, who declined to be named.
The WIA was created by Congress in 1998 to provide "the framework for a unique national workforce preparation and employment system designed to meet both the needs of the nation's businesses and the needs of job seekers and those who want to further their careers."
According to the act, each state is awarded funding from the federal government, which distributes this money to the local community.
"It is a complex mix based on unemployment numbers in areas of substantial unemployment, the number of economically disadvantaged adults, the number of long-term unemployed and the number of economically disadvantaged youth," said the labor department spokesman.
Of the money given to the states, 85 percent of adult and youth funds are given to local communities, with the remaining amount being reserved for the state.
"Ultimately, the local areas get most of the money," said the labor department spokesman. "But they're accountable to their respective states' plans and expectations."
While the complexities of the WIA make it difficult to determine why certain states get certain allocations, the program is designed to allow local communities some say in the programs best suited for their population. Although the local councils help determine the programs to train their workforce, their funding does not always match their need.
"States get allotments from the federal government and, in turn, decide how to distribute money to localities," said the labor department spokesman. "But I would say it's a stretch to say that funds are distributed to 'where they see fit.'"
As part of the WIA, Graham mentioned that the Workforce Development Council of Seattle King County focuses on two main areas: retraining existing workers for better careers and helping at risk youth.
Brian LaPlante has benefited from the local Workforce Development Council. He was laid off from his previous job last year and soon found himself on unemployment benefits. As part of receiving his benefits, he was required to take a class in order to continue his classes. His choose a resume building class, which was part of the workforce program of the Seattle King County Council.
"I was very surprised at the quality of the class," said LaPlante.
LaPlante believed that despite losing his job, he would be able to get a new job without much problem. He had executive-level experience and lengthy resume, so he thought he would only need to tweak his resume.
"I realized I had a lot of work to do," said LaPlante. "Many times when you lost a job, you want to a find a new job at the same compensation rate, but it's just not that easy."
His resume-building class was coordinated and taught by Art Breeben, who received funds as service provider from the Workforce Development Council of Seattle King County.
After completing his resume building class, LaPlante continued his job search and found a new position as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Red Lion Hotels.
"It [the Workforce Program] helps train you on what you have to do, what you have to offer and how to get your foot in the door," said LaPlante.

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