As part of the Obama administration’s focus on preparing workers for 21st century jobs, the president included in his fiscal year 2011 budget request $261 million to establish two innovation funds that will enhance workforce readiness training for young people preparing to enter the workplace.

“As the United States economy continues to struggle with high unemployment and the effects of the severe recession, it’s critical that we prepare new entrants to succeed in today’s challenging and changing workplace,” Donna Klein, Executive Chair and Founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families, said. “Addressing these workforce readiness gaps will be critical to our nation’s long-term economic recovery.”

Corporate Voices for Working Families has worked with members of the administration on workforce readiness issues, sharing the results of its business research that shows employers continue to struggle with an ill-prepared workforce, finding that new hires lack crucial basic and applied skills. And in a survey conducted in December for Corporate Voices by Public Policy Polling, American workers agree with employers that new workers are not prepared to enter the workforce.

Klein, one of 130 national leaders invited to participate in the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth in December, said: “We applaud the president for making workforce readiness a priority during these difficult economic times. We look forward to continuing to work with members of the administration and other policy makers to demonstrate how corporate best practices and innovative workforce readiness model programs can help workers succeed while strengthening our nation’s economic competitiveness and prosperity.”

Leveraging funding from Workforce Investment Act (WIA) formula programs, the two innovation funds would, in part, support and test promising approaches to training and pilot innovative models that provide young people with experience and resources as they prepare to enter the workforce.

Klein said that an example of a model program is Year Up, a nonprofit organization that uses an innovative approach connecting urban young adults to the mainstream corporate job market by teaching business and technical skills and providing apprenticeships with corporate companies.

“Our expectation is that the innovation funds will be used to scale models that have demonstrated a record of success in meeting the needs of both employers and young adults,” Klein said. “ Year Up represents exactly that kind of model.”

Corporate Voices is continuing to expand its workforce readiness policy work and advocacy by identifying and highlighting working models, building awareness, and profiling programs that are succeeding in moving low-income young workers into the business workplace. And on February 24, Corporate Voices is convening a Learn and Earn Working Group that will bring employers together in Washington to share their innovative programs and practices for helping low-income young adults earn money while gaining a postsecondary education credential that is essential to career success.

Publications, research studies, and toolkits on a host of workforce readiness, flexibility, family economic stability, and work and family balance issues are available on the Corporate Voices web site at www.corporatevoices.org.