Report

Networking the Nation’s Workforce System

CURRENT WORKFORCE CHALLENGES


December 2007 marked the beginning of the most severe economic contraction in the United States in 60 years. The economic situation since the start of the recession has been one of acute concern, highlighting the growing economic distress and poverty of American families. With unemployment reaching levels not seen in decades, and underemployment increasing at record rates, the country faces a severe economic and workforce crisis. As of August 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report made clear that three and a half years after the official start of the current economic recession, the picture remains bleak. Unemployment remained at a very high 9.1 percent. Nearly half (44.4 percent) of all
unemployed workers have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks, and there are 2.8 million individuals who are marginally attached to the labor force (meaning they had looked for a job at some point during the last 6 months). In addition, this recession has hit all groups of workers across educational level, occupation, and industry.

During the economic recession, more Americans than ever are visiting the public workforce investment system’s One-Stop Career Centers (One-Stops) and accessing all levels of services (i.e., core, intensive, and training) mandated under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) and administered by the Labor  Department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), as well as many other Federal, state, and local  Services available in the One-Stop system. The resources to meet these needs solely within the constraints for bricks and mortar One-Stops are just not available. There exists a limit in terms of staffing levels and physical structures in regard to services that can be delivered. As a result, the Internet has been used as a viable alternative to delivering some workforce services. There are a vast array of employment and training services the public workforce investment system currently provides, among other services, job search, basic skills classes, GED preparation, job readiness skills, literacy education, college-readiness training, workplace education, targeted occupational training, and labor market information. In FY 2010, close to 10 million individuals were provided services in ETA programs including WIA Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth; National Emergency Grants; the National Farmworker Jobs Program; Indian and Native American Programs; Registered Apprenticeship; Community Service Employment for Older Americans; Trade Ajustment Assistance; Reintegration of Ex-Offenders – Adult; the Youthful Offender Initiative; the High-Growth Job Training Initiative; Job Corps; YouthBuild; and the Community-Based Job Training Grants. Another 20 million individuals were served under the Wagner Peyser Act (W-P), which is a 30 percent increase from previous years .

While the One-Stop system has performed as best as it could during the recession and recovery, the system and its clients faced several challenges. The sheer magnitude of the current recession has led to One-Stops seeing record numbers of individuals, often pushing services to their maximum capacity.

USING THE INTERNET TO ADDRESS WORKFORCE
CHALLENGE

There are promising solutions, however. The appropriate deployment of technology can address many of these challenges. It is first important to note that technology is not a panacea for the public workforce investment system, nor can it completely replace traditional delivery of training and education in bricks and mortar structures. Instead the strategic use of technology will allow the public workforce investment system to expand access options and the types of services available, and complement in-person services and  programs. Indeed there are many successful examples of this already in place.
There are promising solutions, however. The appropriate deployment of technology can address many of these challenges. It is first important to note that technology is not a panacea for the public workforce investment system, nor can it completely replace traditional delivery of training and education in bricks and mortar structures. Instead the strategic use of technology will allow the public workforce investment system to expand access options and the types of services available, and complement in-person services and programs. Indeed there are many successful examples of this already in place. These examples illustrate, however, the use of technology to deliver and enhance WIA services is neither systematic nor equitable (both within states and across the country). Presently, most states allow clients to apply for benefits online, including unemployment insurance, housing, and veterans’ and disability benefits. States have created online One-Stop services and portals including labor market information, resume depositories, and job search data bases. On a national level, the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor has created the CareerOneStop Web portal—a fully virtual One-Stop where individuals can access career information, conduct job searches, receive assistance on resume writing and interview skills; along with very interactive connecting to jobs based on their personal work background and skill levels.

This is a particularly important way to expand access to the services provided through employment and
training. Clearly services can and are already being delivered virtually.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE ETA (Employment and Training Administration) INVESTMENTS

 Continue to encourage and support methods to revamp workforce services and programs so that they reflect the multitude of ways adults’ access employment-related information, services and training opportunities. Consideration might be given to the creation of a “Smart phone” application that can be downloaded for workforce information and training.
 Continue to provide guidance, resources, and technical assistance, using Webinars and other dissemination methods, to allow states to deliver core and other services through multiple mediums, in-person and/or via technology, to meet clients’ preferences and learning styles.
 Continue to ensure that computer and Internet access are an allowable training expense.
 Continue to collaborate, via conferences and other formats, with federal, state and local governments, community- and faith-based organizations or non- or not-for-profits, and the private sector to learn from each other about best practices, share ideas and programs, and better understand the policy frameworks that will allow for the full integration of the online environment in the public workforce investment system. Continue to fund demonstration and pilot projects and innovation grants that capitalize on technology, broadband, and high speed access to better deliver workforce services and programs. Presently, ETA is developing and planning to implement a survey to systematically assess the workforce system’s policy guidance on technology-based learning and current state and capacity to deliver services via technology. A report on this analysis is anticipated in summer 2013.

(Excerpts by Job Market Monitor)

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