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Sarah White and Todd Cohen | Dec 02, 2014
Category: COWS, State & Local Policy

Climate adaptation and mitigation strategies — like many workforce development initiatives — too often seek technical solutions to political problems. This guide aims to transform that quest into a broader conversation on climate resiliency, community health and economic inclusiveness.

Most major reports on U.S. climate solutions indicate that a resilient future requires a plenitude of skilled workers to build it. Few offer concrete plans to train them, or to identify such workers within impacted communities. It is time for climate adaptation principals — thought-leaders in public, nonprofit, industrial, and academic sectors — to start a conversation with the institutions at the heart of America’s skill delivery system: community colleges.


This guide is intended to advance that dialogue; to help build partnerships between education, community, labor, business, and government; and to argue for economic opportunity as a cornerstone of climate-resilient communities. Because beyond specific initiatives in, e.g., energy, transportation, and health systems, a society’s capacity for climate adaptation is increased by broader strategies to promote equity and sustainability, including educational attainment, decent jobs, and participatory institutions.


Community colleges are ideally positioned to help ensure that low-income, under- and unemployed workers can advance into family-sustaining careers, while the communities in which they live improve resilience to climate insecurity. Colleges can provide the technical training necessary to reimagine and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, the community leadership to insist that this be done, and the vision to begin in their own backyards.


The Guide to Climate Resiliency & The Community Collegewas developed by COWS in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Sustainability Education and Economic Development (SEED) Center. The guide defines climate resilience, outlines emerging opportunities to engage in related work, and lifts up examples of innovation and best practice across a variety of economic sectors.


*New format! To page through a virtual copy of the report in magazine format, click HERE.

Laura Chenven and Laura Dresser | Nov 14, 2014
Category: Jobs & Skills: Workforce Development & Industry Partnerships, COWS
Since 2008, Washington State has invested more than $11 million dollars in Hospital Employee Education and Training (HEET) projects to advance health care workers’ careers. This report takes a step back from the day-to-day operation and programs and take a broader view of HEET. With the perspective provided by multiple projects and partners on the ground, HEET adds up to much more than a simple count of students trained. At its core, the innovation of HEET is the partnership of labor, management, and education. Most of the impressive educational and student support strategies that have come from HEET are generated, forged, leveraged, and supported in that partnership. HEET has profoundly transformed workers lives. HEET has transformed systems as well, with innovations cascading out to change education and workforce development throughout the state. This paper takes stock of the overall meaning and impact of six years of HEET based on review of existing annual evaluations and retrospective interviews with dozens of leaders, stakeholders, and implementers of HEET projects.
Oct 31, 2014
Category: COWS, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Well into the sixth year since the beginning of the Great Recession, Wisconsin remains below the employment levels of December 2009. New data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Wisconsin gained only 300 jobs in September. A private sector increase of 8,400 jobs was offset by a decline of 8,100 jobs in the public sector. The net change in September was a meager increase for Wisconsin of just 300 jobs.


Wisconsin’s job deficit now stands at about 127,100. The state still has 15,300 fewer jobs than in 2007 before the beginning of Great Recession. Wisconsin’s population has grown since then. Just to keep up with that growth, Wisconsin needs to add another 111,800 jobs. These two numbers added together – 127,100 – account for the current Wisconsin Job Deficit. At our current pace –gaining some 300 jobs per month- recovery in the Wisconsin labor market is out of sight.

Laura Dresser, Jody Knauss, Matías Cociña and EPI | Oct 08, 2014
Category: Jobs & Skills, High Road, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Raise the Floor Wisconsin

New Report Calls Higher Minimum Wage to Counter Epidemic of Poverty-Wage Work

There is a crisis of poverty-wage work in Wisconsin. 700,000 Wisconsinites, one of every four workers in the state, earns less than $11.36 per hour - the wage required for a full-time, full-year worker to keep a family of four out of poverty - according to a new report from Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).


The report, Raise the Floor Wisconsin – Minimum Wage Edition, helps draw a more complete picture of poverty-wage work in Wisconsin, using federal data to highlight problems in the labor market, the workers that stands to gain from a higher minimum wage, the jobs these workers hold, and the real costs of living that Wisconsinites face. The report also challenges the argument that raising the minimum wage is bad for business.

Oct 02, 2014
Category: Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Well into the sixth year since the beginning of the Great Recession, Wisconsin remains below the employment levels of December 2009. New data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Wisconsin lost 4,300 jobs in the private sector in August. Nevertheless, private sector job loss was more than compensated for by gains in the public sector. The net change in August was a slight increase for Wisconsing of 3,400 jobs.

Jody Knauss, Laura Dresser | Oct 01, 2014
Category: Jobs & Skills: Job Quality & Industry Studies

High quality childcare is an essential foundation for a strong community. Yet the largely private system of American childcare often falls short: the quality of care is often lower than parents, communities and the children themselves need; the cost is often too high for parents; and the wages paid to the dedicated workforce taking care of our babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are too low to retain high quality early educators.

Raising the Quailty of Childcare, a COWS report, looks at three projects.

  1. Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP)
    Milwaukee, WI 
  2. Hospital Employee Education and Training Program (HEET)
    Washington State
  3. TEACH/WAGE$ for Childcare Workers
    North Carolina
Aug 30, 2014
Category: COWS, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

Download State of Working Wisconsin 'By the Numbers'


The State of Working Wisconsin 2014 (Part 1) uses the best and recent data available on jobs and wages to describe the serious economic challenges that Wisconsin continues to face:


A Significant Wisconsin Jobs Deficit

Wisconsin needs 130,400 jobs today to get back to the 2007 level of employment, taking into account the shortfall (WI jobs still 21,900 below 2007), plus jobs needed to accommodate population growth since then (108,500).


Slower than National Job Growth

Over the course of the recovery, Wisconsin lagged behind the national job growth rate (4.0 v. 6.1%). That means every time national growth should have given Wisconsin three jobs, the state added just two. WI would have 58,000 more jobs today if state jobs had grown at the national rate.


Wisconsin’s Severe Racial Inequality

Wisconsin African American unemployment (15 percent) is 2.8 times higher than Wisconsin’s white unemployment rate (5.4 percent). Only three states (MN, NE, and LA) and Washington DC posted higher levels of black/white disparity.

Long- Term Stagnation of the Median Wage

The annual hourly real wage increase for the median worker (1979-2013). Taking inflation into account, the median wage grew by just 50¢ from $16.50 in 1979 to $17.00 per hour in 2013. (Wages expressed in 2013 $s.) The median wage has ticked up in the last few years but remains below the pre-recssion high.


Gender Gap Closing (Slowly)

The gender gap has narrowed in the last few decades. In 1979, at the median, for every dollar a man earned, women earned 59 cents. By 2013, women earned 82 cents. The shrinking gap is the result of an increase in women’s wages and declining wages for men (with those declines concentrated in the 1980s and early 90s).


Continued Decline of  Defining Sector

Manufacturing employment has fallen from 600,000 in 2000 to 466,000 in 2014 leaving fewer than four workers employed in manufacturing today for every five employed in 2000. It is true that manufacturing has produced jobs in the recovery, but not at rates that will get us back to levels of the past. And despite these losses, Wisconsin remains consistently among the top of states in terms of manufacturing employment.


Act 10 Aftermath

Given the structure of Act 10, it is no surprise that Wisconsin’s public sector unionization rate is falling. The state’s public sector unionization rate has fallen from over 50 percent, to 35 percent. The decline in Dane County is much more dramatic with public sector unionzation falling in half over just one year, from 55 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2012. 


Previous State of Working Wisconsin Reports Here>


Mary Ebeling, Benjamin Forman, Rich Parr, Megan Aki | Jul 29, 2014
Category: State & Local Policy, Transportation
From the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, in collaboration with COWS' own State Smart Transportation Initiative, this policy brief examines how best practices in transit planning can benefit Massachusetts’s Regional Transit Authorities.

Massachusetts’s Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) have an opportunity to improve their existing service and make the case for more funding from the state by making the most of a new planning requirement from the legislature. The paper, the sixth in MassINC’s Going for Growth series, compares Massachusetts to best practices in regional transit planning from across the country. 

As part of last year’s landmark transportation finance legislation, the state legislature mandated that the RTAs conduct comprehensive service plans. If done well, the paper argues, these assessments could help make the case for more funding from the state going forward.
SEIU 32BJ and COWS | Jul 11, 2014
Category: COWS, Jobs & Skills, State & Local Policy
Nearly one in four Boston families lives in poverty and incomes in the Greater Boston area are more unequally distributed than in the vast majority of other metro areas around the country. The good news is that the City has a number of important tools that can be engaged to address these problems. However, in order to maximize its effectiveness, the City will have to re-focus and re-organize its approach to economic development. Critically, the City must make combatting poverty and inequality a core priority in all of its programs. Moreover, the City should adopt a broader and more proactive vision of economic development and reorganize programs and structures accordingly. This report, co-written with SEIU 32BJ, identifies five key ways in which the City can re-focus and re-organize its programs and provides a number of specific recommendations of steps the City should take. 

Key Recommendations:
  1. Use every possible point of leverage in the City's purchasing, development and financial systems to create good, family-sustaining jobs with decent wages, paid time off, health insurance and adequate hours.
  2. Fully enforce and expand the application of the Boston Living Wage ordinance. Expand the scope of the Living Wage ordinance to provide for paid time off, health insurance and full time work.
  3. Re-organize the structure of planning and development agencies, primarily the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to include a focus on creating family-sustaining jobs, affordable housing and community building. Strict accountability standards are needed to ensure developers are meeting goals and standards.
  4. Initiate a comprehensive planning process which involves all impacted communities in development of a vision and plan for Boston.
  5. In all things prioritize equity of access for all city residents and ease of entry and participation in city life for all groups, including recent immigrants.
Jul 02, 2014
Category: COWS, Wisconsin, Jobs & Skills: Wisconsin Economy, Workers & Policy

After more than six years, the U.S. economy finally came back to pre-recession levels of employment in May. And that milestone makes it clear that the recovery is farther behind in Wisconsin. New data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Wisconsin lost 1,000 jobs in April. The state’s job growth has been relatively consistent but slow. Just as the U.S. clears the 2007 high, Wisconsin is still far from recovering back to that level.

Wisconsin’s job deficit now stands at 129,330. The state still has 24,200 fewer jobs than in 2007 before the beginning of Great Recession. Wisconsin’s population has grown since then. Just to keep up with that growth, Wisconsin needs to add another 105,100 jobs. These two numbers added together – 129,300 – account for the current Wisconsin Job Deficit.

Wisconsin job growth over the course of the recovery has been slow. And while the national pace has been faster, neither Wisconsin nor the nation has strong enough job growth to absorb new workers supplied by continuing population growth. When the labor market is week, too many workers are still waiting to find a job or to have greater security and hours in their current job.