Workforce development financing has changed significantly over the last 25 years. In 2008, federal funding for the traditional workforce development system was 83 percent lower in real terms than it had been in 1980. As the federal system plays a smaller role in workforce development financing, the job training landscape better represents a “marketplace” where students and job seekers use federal training vouchers and grant and student loan money from various sources, primarily the Higher Education Act’s Pell Grant and Federal Student Loan programs. Additionally, increasing volatility in the labor market has changed the relationship between employer and employee, leading to the need for a very different workforce development delivery and financing system than currently exists. These trends mark changes in the way that the broad workforce development financing system is consumer driven rather than driven by government or institutional priorities. Also, federal workforce development financing often carries significant restrictions on its use, limiting access to funding for innovative workforce development programs.
In the context of less centralized decision making, declining federal formula funding for workforce development financing, and increasingly complex and changing training needs, workforce development programs and state and local governments often find themselves responsible for developing and funding training. Devolution of responsibility for workforce funding has led to nascent innovation in state and local financing of workforce training, but many of the models have not been widespread. This paper examines the potential for some of these newer models of financing, such as bonding incremental payroll tax and social impact bonds as well as several prospective training models, including income- share agreements.
As communities work to differentiate their workforce development systems and human capital stocks as competitive portions of their economy, they will have to develop programs that respond to local training and educational needs. How to finance new and innovative programs has not received enough attention. Further research and analysis are needed to better understand the possibilities in new models of workforce development finance than is presented in this paper, but there are a number of promising possibilities, including incremental revenue bonds, social impact bonds, and income-share agreements. There are likely many more as well. Going forward, developing testable and experimental financing mechanisms will require partnerships across government, the private sector, and philanthropy. As noted previously, one of the greatest challenges for all these models is the limited time they have been in actual practice and the limited evidence base available for investors to use to understand the risks and value in the investments. Continued partnerships with philanthropy and government should help to mitigate the lack of data, but as these programs are formed, building increasing knowledge about the models’ viability is important.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Financing workforce development in a devolutionary era