Washington Updates – September 2019

Disability

An evaluation of diverse projects to support the employment of people with disabilities found a focus on changing attitudes, person-centered approaches, replication strategies, community partnerships and wraparound services led to stronger projects.

The Kessler Foundation is the philanthropic namesake of Dr. Henry Kessler, an orthopedist who founded the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, a rehabilitation company headquartered in West Orange, N.J.

Since 2004, the foundation put forth more than $41.5 million in funding to a diverse array of grantees to expand opportunities for people with disabilities.

Read more about the Kessler Foundation here.

Entrepreneurship

The Self-Employment Training initiative, funded by the federal government, led to gains in entrepreneurial activities and self-employment for dislocated workers recruited by the workforce development system.

Commissioned by the Employment and Training Administration in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the Self-employment Training Program ran from 2013 to 2017.

Mathematica Policy Research conducted an evaluation on ETA’s behalf. The results showed how the program ‘’maintained family income while developing a small business’’ or ‘’ given the potential risks of self-employment, keeping the door open to the traditional job market.’’

Request a copy of the report here.

WIOA Waivers

The number of states with waivers of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act requirements and the number of individual waivers granted to states each more than doubled over the past year, as more states sought flexibility on planning, spending and performance obligations.

Illinois received a waiver in the second week of January allowing the state to designate a single local workforce area across more than one planning region.

Unlike the other states, Texas is the only one to hold a waiver to allow it to use modified performance measure in performance goal negotiations with local workforce boards.

Find the WIOA waivers here

Native Americans

The Employment and Training Administration unveiled additional performance indicators for grantees of the Indian and Native Americans workforce program.

The statutory purpose of the program, at Section 166(a) is: “to develop more fully the academic, occupational and literacy skills of [Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian individuals]; to make such individuals more competitive in the workforce and to equip them with the entrepreneurial skills necessary for successful self-employment; and to promote the economic and social development of Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.

Find out more about it here.

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An Immigrant Founder Uses Food to Lift Up Her Latino Community

An Immigrant Founder Uses Food to Lift Up Her Latino Community

Paty Funegra of La Cocina VA has raised $2 million to turn her community kitchen into an incubator, a café and a place of hope for struggling immigrants.

By Collen DeBiase – The Story Exchange

It’s a big moment: Paty Funegra is getting ready to move her kitchen out of the basement.

Funegra is the founder of La Cocina VA, a social enterprise that helps unemployed Latino immigrants find jobs in the food industry by teaching them food and language skills. For the past five years, she has run the culinary-training organization from the lower floor of Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington, Virgina. But now, she’s ready to scale — and recently raised $2 million to open the Zero Barriers Training & Entrepreneurship Center, which will include a state-of-the-art kitchen incubator, a community cafe, and, she hopes, the promise of a successful future for newly arrived immigrants.

An immigrant herself, the Peruvian-born Funegra says she feels it’s her responsibility to help the vulnerable — especially now. In the wake of the El Paso shootings, and amid anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration, “we see a lot of fear in our communities,” she says.

“My position is to hands-on jump in and do something about it. Don’t fight back that rhetoric with words but with actions.”

Learning the Best Approach

It took Funegra a while to figure out how to best help immigrants.

She grew up in Lima during a turbulent time of violence, poverty and narcotics trafficking. In 2007, she moved to the U.S. after falling in love with an American (the relationship didn’t work out) and eventually took a job with the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. While the bank finances economic development projects in Latin America, Funegra felt disconnected, being so far away. “I was never able to experience how families in Nicaragua, or in Brazil, or back in Peru, were being the beneficiaries of these investments,” she says. “So I started looking around, here in the D.C. region, for opportunities to get involved with my Latino community.”

Funegra became a volunteer at DC Central Kitchen, a 30-year-old community kitchen that helps unemployed adults learn restaurant-industry skills while also donating the meals that they cook to the homeless or hungry. “So I went there to chop carrots and onions,” she recalls, noticing that the kitchen mostly served the African-American community. That was her “a-ha” moment. She asked Executive Director Michael Curtin if she could replicate the community kitchen idea, but this time serving Latinos. “Mike was very generous, accepting right away,” she says with a laugh, but “he didn’t realize that I was serious about it.”

Not only was she serious, Funegra launched La Cocina VA a short six months later, while still working full-time. “I didn’t have $5,000 back then” to hire a lawyer, she says, so she took online courses on how to start a nonprofit. Then she needed to raise more money and find partners. “I remember I was skipping lunches and breakfast at work, just to go and knock on different doors.”

The missing piece — and it was a big one — was an inexpensive kitchen for hands-on preparation, plus classrooms for English classes. Fortunately, Funegra knocked on the door of Mount Olivet, which took an interest in her idea and donated the use of its basement. “This has been an amazing partner,” Funegra says. She quit her day job, drained her savings to print her first promotional materials, and began her new career.

Changing Lives Through Food

Since 2014, over 120 students have taken part in the fully-funded 16-week bilingual training program, in which they take classes on food prep, nutrition, sanitation and kitchen vocabulary. Graduates receive certification through Northern Virginia Community College. Some 85% have found jobs in the industry, and graduates’ average hourly wage is $14 per hour, nearly double the state’s minimum wage of $7.25, according to La Cocina’s 2018 annual report.

Funegra has signed up a number of corporate partners, including food giant Nestlé. “La Cocina VA is providing students the skills they need to succeed in a huge and important sector of the economy: food,” the company said in a Medium post. With some 1.46 million people in the U.S. working in the food and beverage industry, Nestle added that it’s “thrilled to connect with trained talent.” Other partners include Hilton and Whole Foods.

Funegra says the majority of students are women immigrants from Central and South America, and many have been victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking. With La Cocina VA graduates now holding down jobs and making a collective $2.6 million in salaries, she hopes their success inspires other immigrants “to look at the future with hope and with light.”

The new center, which is scheduled to open this coming March, would triple the program’s current capacity, allowing 120 trainees to graduate each year. It will be located on the first floor of an affordable housing complex. The cafe is expected to generate revenue for La Cocina VA, while the incubator would help aspiring food entrepreneurs test out ideas. “We have dreamers that are dreaming about starting businesses, especially women from the Latino community,” Funegra says. “I am immensely proud that now, in the very near future, we will be able to support them to … create jobs and to contribute to the economy.”

Funegra believes her own experience as an immigrant has fueled La Cocina VA’s growth.  “All those moments of challenges and obstacles, and barriers, and lack of clarity of the future, built the skills that I have now,” she says.

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Washington Updates 2019

Apprenticeship

The Trump Administration’s Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program Regulations drew an outpouring of praises and criticisms.

The proposal laid out the most specific details about how the program will operate. Third party groups responsible for approving programs will be called Standards Recognition Entities. Recognition by these agencies will not equal registration, rather it will be an additional step.

While Republicans welcomed the policy, Congressional Democrats called the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program regulations ‘’a violation’’ of the National Apprenticeship Act. 

Read more about the proposed Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program here.

Adult Education

A new guidance clarifies when Federal Adult Education and Family Literacy Act funding may be used for credentialing costs in integrated education and training.

Certifications such as occupational safety and health will be allowed, while others such as work readiness will be disallowed.

The new guidance states that adult education funding cannot pay for costs related to general skills certificates that are work readiness credentials.

Contact here, to obtain a copy of OCTAE 19-2, the Allowable Use of Adult Education and Family Literacy Act Funds for Integrated Education and Training Programs.

Future of Work

Cities with educational attainment deficits and large shares of jobs held by African Americans and Latino workers are at risk of Automation, finds a report issued by groups representing minority elected officials.

The report investigated the communities of Columbia, S.C.; Gary, Indiana.; and Long Beach, California.

The researchers identified a range of forecasts., in the three cities, predicting that 32 percent to 46 percent of the jobs held by African Americans are risk of Automation, as are 41 percent to 50 percent of the jobs held by Hispanics.

Find the report here.

Workforce Development Month

September is Workforce Development Month and the Senate will soon consider a funding bill that would invest in workforce and education programs that help workers prepare for jobs at the backbone of our economy – those that require some postsecondary education but not a four-year degree. These programs have helped prepare millions of nurses, carpenters, computer support specialists and machinists across the country for their careers.

Nonetheless, Congress has, since 2001, passed spending bills that have cut funding for our public workforce system by 40 percent, for career and technical education by nearly 30 percent and for adult basic education by nearly 15 percent.

Read more here.

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