In summary

As we emerge from the pandemic, California needs job training that focuses on results for people and businesses.

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By Patrick Johnston, Special to CalMatters

Patrick Johnston served in the Assembly from 1981 to 1991 and in the state Senate from 1991-2000, He taught public policy at UC Berkeley and served as CEO of the California Association of Health Plans.

Forty years ago California was in a recession with 10% unemployment, yet employers said that good jobs were going begging for lack of skilled workers.   The state spent hundreds of millions of dollars on training, but both business and labor were dissatisfied with the results: lots of certificates, but not many jobs.

So a new approach – backed by manufacturers and industrial unions, legislative Democrats and Republicans – was born. AB 3461, which I co-authored, created the Employment Training Panel, or ETP, a different kind of training program that matches the needs of employers for skilled workers with the needs of workers for good jobs, and which serves to help stimulate the economy of the state as a whole.  

Employers, working with unions where there is collective bargaining, design training for specific jobs so workers can increase their income and California businesses can better compete in the global economy. To ensure the integrity of the program and the money entrusted to it, the Employment Training Panel can spend money only after training is complete and trainees work for at least 90 days. It is a tough but fair deal: there must be a job after job training.

I left the Legislature in 2000 and ETP continued as a bipartisan, business-labor program. Today, as we emerge from the pandemic, we still need job training that focuses on results for people and businesses.  

In March the California Future of Work Commission stressed the need for employer-based training like ETP.  After studying the Employment Training Panel, the Brookings Institution issued a report last year that found ETP had “a large and positive impact” on employers and workers with as much as a 22% increase in jobs at worksites two years after ETP training.  A series of studies by CSU Northridge researchers consistently found that in the first year after ETP training workers earned $3,000 more in today’s dollars than comparison groups.

However, in real dollars the Employment Training Panel budget is less today than it was in 1982 when the program was born, and we set a budget cap of $55 million. Just to keep up with inflation, the budget today would need to be $145 million.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s January budget wisely included $353 million in new workforce development funds to help California emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever. Unfortunately, none of that money goes to the Employment Training Panel and the proposed budget would cut ETP funding from $100 million to $80 million for the year starting July 1.  

I am proud of ETP’s accomplishments over the past four decades. That is why I am supporting a proposal from the Coalition for ETP and Jobs to increase the ETP budget to $130 million so it can train more workers for more employers and make California stronger.

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