By Tim Theberge, Lead Policy Analyst, USDOL/ETA Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance

The Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance launches a Community of Practice for states and stakeholders to collaborate on providing improved services to Trade-affected workers.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers (TAA) Program traces its roots back to October 1962. Since that time, the TAA Program has been modified thirteen times. Some of these changes have been more significant than others, but a piece of all of them can be found in the current version of the program: the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reauthorization Act of 2015.

I started my involvement in the TAA Program in 2001. That same year, Mattel (the toy company) closed a manufacturing plant in Kentucky. This was the company’s last manufacturing plant in the United States. The production was moved to Mexico.

From 1980 to 2001, more than 1,000 workers of Mattel were certified under the TAA Program. Under the version of the TAA Program in place at the time, only those workers engaged in manufacturing were eligible for services. In 2009, service workers were added to the groups of eligible workers under the TAA Program. From 2010 through 2018, another 250 workers from Mattel were certified under the TAA Program. These were all Trade-affected workers providing services.

The major reforms of the 2009 amendments also provided funding to provide employment and case management services. Prior to 2009, the TAA Program relied exclusively on partner programs to provide this services. Other changes since 2002 moved the TAA Program more and more into a focus on training and case management services, away from just payment of supplemental unemployment payments in the form of TRA.

Even without major legislative changes, service design under the TAA Program continues to evolve based on best practices observed in the states. The main purposes of this Community is to share those practices and for the states to learn from each other what does and does not work in the real world of workforce development. The more you use this Community, the more you will get out of it. While OTAA and ETA staff will contribute regularly, we hope that it is the states that will drive the vibrancy of this Community.

Please visit the CoP regularly and share it with everyone on your team at the state and local level that works with Trade participants. I hope you will post your questions, share your expertise with others, and become an even more active participant of our community!