Better Trained Workforce Needed to Keep Private Employers
in District, Bell Atlantic - Washington President Tells
Senate Labor Committee
January 13, 1998
employers with the workers they need, Bell Atlantic - Washington
President and CEO William Freeman said today. In testimony before the
Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Freeman predicted that
without an effective system to train the local workforce, the private
sector will move away from the region.
"Unlike years past, today's employers want people who already have
basic job skills and life skills that would make them 'ready to
work'," he said. "Employers are prepared to provide additional
training to those individuals, but those individuals must come to the
workplace with a set of skills that would allow them to have a
reasonable chance of being successful."
The hearings were convened to explore a regional approach on ways
government and private industry can help people get the skills they
need to join the workforce.
Freeman was invited to testify due to Bell Atlantic's collaborative
with Capital Commitment, and his role as chair of D.C. Agenda's
workforce preparation subcommittee and co-chair of its economic
development committee. D.C. Agenda is a non-profit organization that
is mobilizing a cross section of local business and government leaders
to solve pressing D.C. issues, thereby improving the quality of life in
Freeman said the primary responsibility for training future workers
should be placed in the hands of non-profit and for-profit service
providers. He noted that Bell Atlantic has worked with such an
organization, Capital Commitment, since 1994 and the company is very
pleased with the results.
"Capital Commitment is a true model of welfare to work in its broadest
sense and should be supported through combination of public and
private initiatives," he said.
Located in Southeast Washington, Capital Commitment trains unemployed
and underemployed individuals in the Washington metropolitan area to
qualify for jobs in the telecommunications industry. Bell Atlantic
hires, and uses subcontractors who hire, Capital Commitment graduates.
Some graduates are now helping Bell Atlantic rewire the Pentagon's
Bell Atlantic is involved in the three critical ways in which Capital
Commitment needs help to achieve its goals: financial support,
strategic managerial assistance and jobs for its graduates.
More than a year ago, business leaders met to discuss how to bring
economic vitality into the city, Freeman said. The D.C. Agenda
concluded that most employers do not provide basic skills training,
but they are interested in identifying the basic skills needed for
their jobs and providing that information to those in the business of
training. And most importantly, employers who find well-trained
applicants are ready to hire them, he said.
D.C. Agenda also concluded the D.C. government's role in the workforce
preparation process should be limited and focused. "Government should
not be the soup-to-nuts provider of training and services. Rather,
local government should screen applicants for training and act as a
coordinator for local training organizations," Freeman said. He added
that local government should also perform "the classic and very
necessary regulatory oversight and quality assurance function.
"If workforce preparation is going to work in this city, the private
sector must be assured that government acknowledges and agrees to
providing a quality 'product' in the form of a well-prepared,
well-trained individual who is ready to take his or her place in the
workforce," Freeman said.
He said this model of using the private sector to identify the skills
needed for entry-level positions and in employing well-trained
individuals, having government play a screening, oversight and
coordination role, and using non-profit and for-profit agencies for
training is the one that holds great promise for the city.
Freeman said D.C. Agenda will recommend policies, structures and
processes for an effective workforce training system to the District
government and the D.C. Financial Authority by the end of March.
Bell Atlantic - formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX -
is at the forefront of the new communications, information and
entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone access lines and 5.8
million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are
premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market
leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of
directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the
world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets,
with operations and investments in 21 countries.