Workforce Investment Act: A Reflection

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Last updated: April 2, 2019

In Clagett’s article titled, Workforce Development in the U.S.: An Overview, the author clearly defines the purpose of the U.S. Workforce Investment System, and how it is being implemented throughout the country. According to the author, efforts are made by each state in an aim to align workforce with challenges brought about by further economic development. In this paper, we highlight important functions of the system, and give a personal reflection on how the system works in each state.

Authorized under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Workforce Investment System has yielded positive efforts throughout years of its implementation. It functions mainly to meet the needs of jobseekers and employers—both for employment and training or further education. The system requires implementation of the One-Stop Delivery System in each state, leaving local authorities the freedom to design, implement, and oversee their own Workforce Investment System to better align them the needs of beneficiaries and stakeholders in each state, and ensure easy access.According to Clagett, the system implements a comprehensive range of employment services, ranging from core to intensive services. Core services include providing information, preliminary assessment and employment-related services while intensive services include counselling, specialized assessment, employment plan, etc.The system also includes partner programs tailored to meet the demands of the workforce, such as adult education program for those with limited facility in the English language, Trade Adjustment Assistance for dislocated workers, vocational rehabilitation for those with disabilities, etc.To date, the system benefits around 15 million jobseekers each year, and this number is expected to increase in the next few years given the efforts of each state. So far, statistics show an overwhelming success in terms of benefits yielded.

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However, the system faces a continuous decline in funding, and the predilection of each state to overspend especially on training needs.The author posits that despite issues of overspending, the system is still underfunded. Considering the aim to empower the workforce to meet the demands of employers, more training opportunities and facilities are needed. In response to this, implementers have devised individual training accounts (ITAs), which allow individuals to select the best training providers for them. However, arguments emerge that ITA only lessened opportunities for training, making it difficult for providers to meet regional economic development needs.Aside from overspending, there is also a concern that the system involves too many measures which are individual focused rather than system-impact focused. In line with this, the Department of Employment set program measures to evaluate workforce investment and ensure a comprehensive implementation that provides high quality services to both jobseekers and employers.Strategies were also initiated to effect improvement.

These include sectoral initiatives, cluster-based initiatives, career ladder approaches, utilization of specialized intermediaries, among others. In order to ensure better alignment with economic development, adherence to these strategies should be enforced.In line with these strategies, states of Florida, Oregon, New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania employed state coordination, regional alignment, and leadership. Particularly, Florida employed state legislature to provide welfare to jobseekers, placing all Employment Service employees under daily supervision. Oregon established Employer Workforce Training Fund in 2003 to support the skilled workforce through providing extensive training to improve employer relationships, leverage funds, and increase state and federal dollars. Oregon also established local Workforce Response Teams focusing on training of workers for local jobs.

Michigan focused on regional alignment by establishing Regional Skills alliances, a partnership among all sectors—employers, educational institutions, training providers, economic development organizations, and public workforce system. Illinois focused on key sectors identified namely, healthcare, advanced manufacturing and transportation, warehousing, and logistics. The New York State emphasized collaboration among different sectors to achieve innovation and technology, while Pennsylvania provided funds for industrial partnerships.Other states focused on ensuring regional competitiveness through local innovation, business relevance and alignment of workforce and economic development. For instance, Boston used fees from developers within city limits to support workforce development. San Diego emphasized stronger relationship between industry and education to provide empowerment to the workforce sector through training.

Florida’s Worksource worked with the regional economic authority to identify sectors that needed realignment of workforce, and provided training to 1,230 employees in support of them. Other states like Northern Pennsylvania and Mc Allen Texas collaborated with government and private agencies to support the training needs of their workforce.Meeting the skill needs of adult workers was the focus of some states in their effort to form an aggressive economic development strategy. Particularly, Bridgeport Connecticut provided training programs to low income workers and those who need technology skills to make the employable. In Oregon, colleges were compensated for the service rendered by their students to working adults. The school program benefitted many working adults who received training from the educational institutions. In New York, the government worked closely with various industries to train manufacturing workers to enhance knowledge and techniques on the job.As designed, the implementation of the WIA system serves to empower the workforce in general.

The systems each state employs vary to fit the needs of their local jobseekers and employers.ReflectionFrom its conception in 1998, the Workforce Investment Act has gone a long way to empower the workforce primarily in terms of training and development. The systems implemented by each state suggest that the collaborative strategy among the government sector, industrial firms, educational institutions, business and organizational firms is by far the best strategy to ensure upward movement in the economic development ladder.To highlight, the strategy employed by New York State seems to be unique in that it specifically focuses regional alignment aimed towards innovation and technology.

Also, Michigan’s effort to establish collaboration among different units may inspire other states to do the same.Mainly, empowerment of workforce through training and development is employed to meet the needs of employers in designated sectors. This proves once again the vital role of education in economic progress. By providing training and development to the workforce, the government can ensure competitiveness of the local workforce with other nations. In the long run, continuous efforts to maximize local potential can eliminate dependency to outside labor force such as China, Taiwan, and other countries. In time, this will also promote economic stability through large reduction in unemployment rate.

Moreover, the great improvement in the industry sector would outweigh the need of some jobless citizens to abroad to teach English. At large, we will be able to provide them employment which will likely convince them to stay in the country and be productive citizens.The success of the WIA creates a thought that if the government can design programs for the workforce, it can likely do the same for the professionals. While programs are underway for the former, designing programs to meet the need for professional staff should be considered in order to attain a more progressive economy. Specifically, the need for additional teachers and trainers should be taken into consideration to support the demand of the workforce for training and development.Empowering both sectors, the workforce and the professional would likewise promote a sense of nationhood among citizens. With the recent economic recession and problems arising from illegal immigration, policies such as the Workforce Investment Act could be the solution to the never-ending problem of the government. As such, policymakers should review if its concept could be applied not only to the workforce but also to other sectors.

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