After running the federal government's largest community college workforce training program during the Obama administration, Jane Oates will now be doing similar outreach to industry for the nation's largest for-profit university. The University of Phoenix announced Oates' appointment this week. This switch says a lot about how fluid the workforce training field is today, when a top political official crosses the pitched battle lines from public workforce training programs to for-profit. A key priority in Oates' work will be to continue to identify employers' needs and ensure Phoenix can demonstrate its graduates meet job requirements. Assessment is a key lynchpin to this kind of effort--and finding ways to make the work products of school more transparent and aligned with those of the workplace.
For those not up to speed on beltway politics, Oates resigned earlier this spring from the Department of Labor's Education and Training Administration, accepting blame for budgetary overruns in the Job Corps program that runs 125 training centers nationwide. ETA has played a key role in disbursing $1 billion in funds to community colleges to accelerate retraining for displaced workers through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT). The budgetary problems led the department to turn away trainees beginning in late January of this year. Oates estimates roughly 10,000 trainees were turned away and about 700 people lost their jobs at the training centers. The training program was to resume in April.