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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Gastón Institute Forum Addresses Workforce Development

The Mauricio Gastón Institute recently hosted the first edition of its fall speaker series inviting Dr Ramon Borges-Méndez to discuss workforce development and disadvantaged workers. With the economic recession forcing employment towards a culture of “tough love,” many individuals from poor or minority communities are having difficulty finding jobs. Dr. Borges-Méndez presented his findings on community-based organizations (CBOs) influencing the development of One Stop Career Centers (OSCC) and how CBOs promote OSCCs being responsive to the needs of disadvantaged job seekers.

Dr. Ramón Borges-Méndez is a professor at UMass Boston teaching courses on political institutions, methodology, and other public policy issues in the PhD Program in Public Policy. Three points that his study focused on were regional strategy in work force development, CBO inclusion or exclusion in One Stop Career Centers (OSCC), and the value-added contribution of CBOs to the OSCC system.

Dr. Borges-Méndez explained, “OSCC[s] are at the core of the Workforce Investment Act legislation of 1998. They are intended to become the universal point of entry for all federally funded employment programs. They may be used to find jobs, information about occupational education programs, or to request and receive career development services.” However “clients are eligible only for a core set of job search services, those needing social support services are referred to other agencies, such as CBOs.”

Dr. Borges-Méndez detailed key components of the Workforce Development Act (WDA) of 1998, pointing out that it goes beyond remedial training, that is, aiding individuals who fall behind. Beyond job creation, the WDA helps in orientation to the world of work with recruiting, placement, mentoring, follow up counseling, and crisis intervention. The act is meant to improve employment prospects of individuals and populations.

While discussing how lower skilled workers have “horizontal mobility but can’t get up the ladder,” Borges-Méndez stressed the fact that “we are all potentially disadvantaged workers,” mentioning that economic instability, lack of job tenure, low wages, poverty, and the fact that so many people are over-qualified, puts the majority of us at risk, however, that is not to undermine biological or racial disadvantages workers may additionally face. He also addressed the stigma towards workers receiving aid or training in seeking employment. Workers highly educated or specialized feel out of place at OSCC asking for help, and Professor Borges-Méndez views this as a challenge to overcome.

He pointed out that the current Workforce Investment Act has a budget of $3.5 billion, peanuts compared to its predecessor that was granted $11.7 billion. According to Dr. Borges-Méndez, the future of worker development and employment doesn’t look good.

After giving a detailed analysis he discussed strategies to effectively implement development amongst workers, outlining sectorial and cluster strategies, work-first bazaars and training for multiple entries. A compilation of the research used for this forum, including proposed strategies for development, is available through the Gastón Institute.

The Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy was established at UMass Boston through the initiative of Latino community activists and academicians. The institute aspires to be a conduit for development by addressing issues facing the Latino community and by providing the community with information necessary for effective participation in public policy development.

The annual speakers series sponsored by the institute provides the opportunity for researchers to present their work and to promote open discussion of the issues that affect Latinos. It encourages dialog among academics, policy makers and community leaders and provides a medium for research that can inform those working to empower the Latino community.

The institute aids working groups in tackling specific issues and problems of current and pressing concern, and convenes conferences to address public policy issues in health, education, and economic development, among other areas.

The Institute will be holding it’s next seminar on November 7, with speaker Dharma E. Cortés, Ph.D., who will be discussing the issues of diabetes and health literacy for Latinos.