By Caroline May | While the president has been urging “insourcing,” the government has been sending money to the Philippines to train foreign workers for jobs in English-speaking call centers.
According to New York Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop and North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones, this is unacceptable and “shocking.”
The pair are calling on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to immediately suspend what is known as the Job Enabling English Proficiency (JEEP) program.
According to Jones’ office, in 2010, after the two men compelled USAID to end a similar training program in Sri Lanka, the agency assured the congressmen that they would “conduct a review to ensure the project will not take any jobs away from Americans.”
In a letter to the USAID administrator, Rajiv Shah, Bishop and Jones expressed their displeasure at learning of the effort they thought the agency had explicitly promised against.
“I believe it was reasonable to conclude from that statement that your agency’s outsourcing training program was terminated, particularly in light of President Obama’s ‘insourcing’ initiative announced earlier this year,” the pair wrote. “Therefore, I was shocked to learn that USAID has used taxpayer dollars to invest in outsourcing training programs in the Philippines at the expense of American workers.”.
According to Bishop, more than 4.5 million Americans currently work in call centers, but since 2007 more than 500,000 call center jobs have been outsourced to foreign countries.
Business Week broke the story about the JEEP program this week. According to Business Week, the program is part of the Growth and Equity in Mindanao (GEM) initiative, which costs $100 million annually.
“The JEEP program was developed to promote peace and stability in Mindanao by teaching English to youth in conflict-prone areas to help them pursue gainful employment in tourism, nursing and other locally-based industries and to break the cycle of violence which had gripped that region of the Philippines,” a USAID spokesperson told Business Week, adding that it is set to expire at the end of the year.
The congressmen want it gone yesterday.
“Using Americans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fund the training of foreign nationals to take our jobs is absolutely crazy and totally unacceptable,” Jones said in a statement. “Uncle Sam is over $15 trillion in debt and unemployment is still elevated because of policies like this, and it’s got to stop.”
The pair pledged in their letter to “use every legislative option available to permanently prohibit USAID from engaging in such practices in the future.”
“I support the international development mission of USAID but my top priority is protecting American jobs and American taxpayers,” Bishop concluded. “I anticipate working closely with USAID in a bipartisan manner to ensure that none of its programs overseas will hurt workers here at home.”
Photograph of Dr. Rajiv Shah Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.
Since being sworn in on Dec. 31, 2009, Administrator Shah managed the U.S. Government’s response to the devastating 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, co-chaired the State Department’s first-ever review of American diplomacy and development operations, and now spearheads President Obama’s landmark Feed the Future food security initiative. He is also leading “USAID Forward,” an extensive set of reforms to USAID’s business model around seven key areas, including procurement, science & technology, and monitoring & evaluation.
Before becoming USAID’s Administrator, Dr. Shah served as Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and as Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At USDA, he launched the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a new scientific institute that significantly elevates the status and funding of agricultural research.
Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Shah served for seven years with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where his positions included Director of Agricultural Development in the Global Development Program, and Director of Strategic Opportunities.
Originally from Detroit, Shah earned his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and his Master of Science in health economics at the Wharton School of Business. He attended the London School of Economics and is a graduate of the University of Michigan. Shah previously served on the boards of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Seattle Public Library, and the Seattle Community College District.
Dr. Shah is married to Shivam Mallick Shah and is the father of three children. He lives in Washington D.C.