Employment & Job Training

The Native workforce is young and growing. Tribal nations are committed to investing in the potential of Native people through expanded job training and employment that connects them to America’s 21st century economy. However, tribal nations continue to experience unemployment rates well above the national average, and rates of unemployment are exacerbated by economic conditions, endemic poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and marginal education opportunities.

NCAI continues to advocate for adequate funding of existing job training and investment programs while supporting new workforce investment legislation. Job training and workforce investment programs support employed and unemployed tribal members pursuing improved job skills. Improving employees’ skillsets builds stronger workforces and ensures sustainable employment over time. These programs offer training opportunities for American Indian and Alaska Natives to earn a GED, learn computing skills, and obtain certificates in specialized areas of various fields.

American Jobs Act

In September 2011, President Obama released the American Jobs Act. The provisions of the bill offer significant benefits to Indian Country through both general provisions (e.g., payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits) and provisions that are specific to tribal nations. One of the most significant tribal provisions is the proposed $310 million in formula funding for tribes that would be added to the Indian Reservation Roads Program and the $7.5 million for the Tribal Transit Program. As Congress considers particular provisions of the Jobs Act, it is critical that tribal provisions be prioritized to stimulate Native economies and offer benefits to surrounding rural and regional economies. NCAI sees this bill as another example in which clear inclusion of tribal governments alongside state governments would offer significant economic benefits. As Congress acts to protect the jobs of teachers and first responders and to sustain investments in an array of other sectors, tribal governments must be offered the same support given to state and local governments.

Workforce Investment Act

NCAI, along with a range of partners, has continued to pursue the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The Act was enacted in 1998—in a dramatically different economic environment— and has been due for reauthorization since 2003. WIA includes a Native American Program (Section 166), which supports employment and training activities for American Indians and Alaska Natives, serving approximately 32,000 unemployed, underemployed, and underskilled Native people. Some members of Congress have proposed the elimination of the Native American Program and consolidation of its funding into a competitive grant program. Given the employment challenges and growing population in Indian Country, targeted programs are essential to meeting the challenges of today’s economy. 

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