The Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA)-funded employment and training programs provide important assistance to individuals seeking to participate in the workforce, including victims of human trafficking. In addition, certain ETA programs that work with vulnerable populations raise awareness of trafficking and help identify potential cases of trafficking.
ETA leverages its employment and training resources and expertise to help survivors of trafficking reenter the workforce and gain access to economic opportunity. These resources include the ETA-funded network of nearly 2,400 American Job Centers (AJCs), which is a single point of access to employment and training services. See: www.careeronestop.org for locations, hours of operation, and contact information of AJCs.
AJCs have an intake process where case managers guide people to eligible programs based on their work history and specific barriers to employment, including trafficking victims and individuals with a criminal record. Services include group and individual career counseling, job listing, resume development, job and training referrals, and computer, phone and bank access.
Some AJC staff, including those serving agricultural workers, receive training to recognize the characteristics of victims of human trafficking, appreciate the challenges faced by survivors, and understand the services for which they are eligible.
ETA's role in preventing and detecting potential trafficking
A number of ETA-funded services are focused on vulnerable populations, including migrant and seasonal farmworkers, Native American foreign guest workers, ex-offenders, and at-risk or disconnected youth. This overlap between eligibility for ETA-funded services and programs and trafficking risk factors make these programs important settings for awareness training to prevent and detect potential trafficking cases among these vulnerable populations.
ETA's role in preventing trafficking in temporary foreign labor programs
Foreign labor certification programs permit U.S. employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary or permanent basis to fill jobs essential to the U.S. economy. Certification may be obtained in cases where it can be demonstrated that there are too few qualified U.S. workers available and willing to perform the work at wages that meet or exceed the prevailing wage paid for that occupation in the area of intended employment. Foreign labor certification programs are designed to assure that the admission of foreign workers into the United States on a permanent or temporary basis will not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers. ETA, along with the WHD, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State, share data to support investigations of employer compliance with foreign labor certification requirements and to help protect these workers from being hired by employers who have been debarred from participating in these visa programs.
ETA's work with State Workforce Agencies to combat labor exploitation and trafficking in agriculture
Migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MSFWs) face unique challenges due to the nature of their work, and often experience wage theft, heat-related illness, pesticide exposure, inferior housing, transportation barriers, discrimination, and other abuses, including sexual harassment/coercion/assault and human trafficking.
Responding to these challenges, ETA funds the Monitor Advocate System, which is a federal/state monitoring system that ensures workforce protections for MSFWs. The Monitor Advocate System works within State Workforce Agency Employment Service programs to ensure MSFWs have equitable access to career and training services and workforce protections. ETA, through its regulations, also requires State Workforce Agencies to establish and maintain an Employment Service and Employment-Related Law Complaint System to process MSFW complaints.
State Workforce Agency outreach staff must be trained on protections afforded to MSFWs, including those temporarily in the United States on H-2A agricultural worker visas. This includes training on protecting MSFWs against sexual harassment and may also be trained on similar issues like sexual coercion, assault, and human trafficking. Such trainings are intended to help outreach staff identify possible violations and document and refer them to appropriate enforcement agencies. Outreach staff responsibilities include, but are not limited to, explaining to farmworkers information on the Employment Service and Employment-Related Law Complaint System, other organizations serving farmworkers in the area, and a basic summary of farmworker rights, including farmworker rights with respect to the terms and conditions of employment. Outreach staff must be alert to observe the working and living conditions of MSFWs and, upon observation or upon receipt of information regarding a suspected violation of Federal or state employment-related law, document and refer information in accordance with ETA regulations. Employers using ETA's Agricultural Recruitment System (ARS), including employers using the H-2A visa program, must assure outreach staff will have reasonable access to the workers to conduct outreach activities. State Workforce Agencies also conduct field checks, which are unannounced appearances at agricultural worksites to which placements have been made through the ARS to ensure that working conditions are proper and that the employer is not violating employment-related laws.
Under certain circumstances, American Job Centers attempt to resolve MSFW complaints. In cases where resolution of employment-related law complaints at the local level would be detrimental to the complainant, the Employment Service and Employment-Related Law Complaint System regulations direct State Workforce Agencies (through the American Job Centers) to immediately refer complainants to the appropriate enforcement agency (or another public agency, a legal aid organization, and/or a consumer advocate organization, as appropriate) for assistance. On a case-by-case basis, the appropriate referral agency may include law enforcement or the Department's Wage and Hour Division or Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
ETA's work providing employment and training services for trafficking victims
Most of ETA's employment and training programs are authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA). One of the purposes of WIOA is to "increase, for individuals in the United States, particularly those individuals with barriers to employment, access to and opportunities for the employment, education, training, and support services they need to succeed in the labor market."
Most of these programs have eligibility criteria designed to target job seekers who most need assistance. The "barriers to employment" used for program eligibility impact many individuals who are from vulnerable populations or have individual risk factors for human trafficking, including:
- Homelessness (including runaway youth)
- Disability (physical, learning, or mental health)
- Poor academic performance and dropping out of school
- Involvement with or targeting by gangs
- Criminal/juvenile justice or child welfare/foster care system involvement
- Migrant and seasonal work
- Being in a marginalized/disadvantaged community
The programs listed below can provide employment and training services to eligible trafficking survivors:
- Job Corps. Since 1964, the 121 Job Corps centers nationwide (50 states, Puerto Rico, and District of Columbia) provide opportunity to youth between the ages 16-24, including youth experiencing homelessness, persons with disabilities, and victims of human trafficking, with education and career technical training, personal and career counseling, and job placement services leading to successful careers, in in-demand industry sectors or the Armed Forces, or enrollment in postsecondary education, including registered apprenticeship programs. Job Corps services help enrolled students earn a high school diploma or GED, and learn a vocational trade in in-demand industries including advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare, renewable resources and energy, transportation, among others. As a primarily residential program, Job Corps provides students room and board, as well as health care, at no cost to students while they learn skills in specific training areas for up to three years. In addition to helping students complete their education, obtain career technical skills and gain employment, Job Corps also provides transitional support services, such as help finding employment, housing, child care, and transportation. Because affordable housing has long been cited as an unmet need for human trafficking survivors, Job Corps' residential model stands out as a much-needed support. The 2015, Trafficking Victims Protection Act reauthorization required Job Corps to extend eligibility to victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons regardless of income, thus removing access barriers to survivors who lack documentation of meeting the low-income requirement. In addition, certain foreign nationals, who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons, have been granted nonimmigrant "T" or "U" status, and have been granted valid work authorization, are also eligible for Job Corps.
- Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO). The Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) grant program's mission is to reduce the significant barriers to employment faced by justice-involved youth and adults who are currently or were formerly incarcerated. This population can include trafficking victims who committed crimes, often as a result of being trafficked. Approximately 100 active DOL REO grantees operate throughout the year. REO tests the effectiveness and adoptability of service delivery models found in faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs) and government systems and promotes collaboration and coordination between FBCOs, foundations, state and local justice agencies, community colleges, and the workforce system.
- YouthBuild. YouthBuild is a community-based pre-apprenticeship program that provides job training and educational opportunities for youth ages 16-24 who dropped out of high school. YouthBuild participants learn vocational skills in construction, as well as in other in-demand industries that include health care, information technology, manufacturing, green jobs, and hospitality. Youth also provide community service through the required construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing for low-income or homeless families in their own neighborhoods. Youth split their time between the vocational training work site and the classroom, where they earn their high school diploma or equivalency degree, learn to be community leaders, and prepare for postsecondary training opportunities, including college, apprenticeships, and employment. YouthBuild includes significant support systems, such as mentoring, follow-up education, employment, and personal counseling services; and participation in community service and civic engagement. There are approximately 175 Department-funded YouthBuild programs currently active as of March 2022.
- WIOA Youth Programs. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Youth program serves eligible youth (in-school ages 14-21 or out-of-school ages 16-24), who face barriers to education, training, and employment. These barriers include low income, homelessness, disability, involvement in the criminal justice or foster care system, limited English proficiency, or pregnancy/parenting. Funds are allocated to states and local areas based on a statutory formula. The WIOA Youth Program requires local areas to expend a minimum of 75 percent of WIOA youth funds on out-of-school youth. The program includes 14 program elements that are required to be made available to youth participants. Local programs provide youth services in partnership with American Job Centers and under the direction of local Workforce Development Boards.
- WIOA Adult Program. The WIOA Adult program serves individuals and helps employers meet their workforce needs. It enables workers to obtain good jobs by providing them with job search assistance and training opportunities. WIOA establishes a priority requirement with respect to funds allocated to a local area for adult employment and training activities. American Job Center staff, when using WIOA Adult funds to provide individualized career services and training services, must give priority to recipients of public assistance, other low-income individuals, and individuals who are basic skills deficient (including English language learners). Under WIOA, priority must be implemented regardless of the amount of funds available to provide services in the local area. In addition, veterans receive priority of service in all DOL-funded employment programs.
- National Farmworker Jobs Program. The National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) provides grants to community-based organizations and public agencies that help farmworkers acquire skills that they need to obtain, retain and advance in agricultural jobs or start new careers. The program serves individuals who are low-income and primarily employed in agricultural or fish farming labor, and their dependents. NFJP services include career services (including career exploration, labor market information, and job search assistance), training services, youth services (including tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and financial literacy), related assistance services, and sousing services.
- Indian and Native American Programs. The WIOA Indian and Native American (INA) program serves American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian adults and youth through a network of 165 tribal governments and INA organizations. Grantees can design their programs to best fit the needs of their communities, consistent with the principles of the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act. The INA program serves the unique needs of Native Americans, including those living without transportation on remote reservations many miles from American Job Centers or other services, and those facing cultural challenges stemming from relocating to dense urban areas. INA programs are intended to increase the academic, occupational, entrepreneurial, and literacy skills of Indian and Native Americans to promote their communities' economic and social development while preserving their cultural values.