Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. What is the workforce development system?


The workforce development system generally refers to a broad range of employment and training services whose purpose is to enable job seekers, students, and employers to access a wide range of information about jobs, the labor market, careers, education and training organizations, financing options, skills standards or certification requirements, and needed support services. There is not currently one typical workforce development system. In most (but not all) states, much recent attention has focused on creating user-friendly one-stop career centers that provide job seekers and employers with one-stop access to a broad range of employment and training services at particular locations or through electronic linkages. As of April 1998, 46 states received grants from the U.S. Department of Labor to establish one-stop centers, and in many states these centers have become the focal point of the workforce development system.

Most state workforce development system reforms strive to build a more integrated system from the existing array of federal and state programs. After several years of consideration, Congress last summer enacted the Workforce Investment Act that restructures and streamlines multiple funding streams for scores of programs which aim to provide employment and training assistance to various segments of the population, particularly the economically disadvantaged. Under the new workforce legislation, all states must establish one-stop career centers. However, many state and local jurisdictions and agencies had already moved ahead with their own approaches to integrate multiple programs or funding streams and to coordinate staff in different programs in order to develop systems which are intended to improve the quality of jobs and workers in their local economies.

While there is clearly variation across states, among the agencies that have been involved in workforce development systems are the JTPA programs, the Employment Service, community colleges, other vocational and adult education providers, and vocational rehabilitation providers.

The Workforce Investment Act requires the involvement of these agencies as well as employment and training activities provided through the Community Service Block Grant, Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Veteran's Affairs. In some states and localities, welfare-to-work programs operated by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are systematically included in workforce development systems. In others, there is no formal linkage and welfare recipients are served like any other job seekers. The new legislation does not specifically require welfare-to-work activities operated by the TANF system to be part of the workforce development system.

Employment-related programs provided under the workforce development system have been involved to varying degrees in state welfare reform programs over the past three decades. The ES had joint responsibility with state welfare agencies, for the Work Incentive (WIN) program in the late 1960's, and in some states continues to this day to have a major role in providing employment-related services to welfare recipients (e.g. work registration, job search, job placement, workfare management), even though there is no formal nationwide role for the ES in welfare offices. ES-welfare services have usually been delivered from locations separate from the regular mainstream offices, sometimes with ES staff co-located with welfare staff. In many, but not all states, both the Job Service and JTPA are the same agency; and in several states and localities, the Job Service is the local administrator of JTPA.

In the past decade, there have been more varied models under the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program for providing welfare recipients with employment-related activities. While there has been no comprehensive survey on how the JOBS employment services were delivered in all states, descriptive information shows that in many states, staff of the welfare agency provided job search assistance and other employment services. But in a number of states, welfare agencies contracted with the ES or JTPA to deliver services. In some states, JOBS programs were integrated into one-stop career centers that often included ES, JTPA, education, and other services. In many states, the ES and/or the JTPA system had interagency contracts or agreements with the welfare agencies to operate all or some of the JOBS program, but again, no formal nationwide responsibility. As states revamp their welfare systems in response to TANF and the Welfare-to-Work (WtW) grants program (which provides supplemental funds to help welfare recipients with the most serious employment problems both move into and keep jobs), JTPA and other employment and training programs will continue to be affected.

Given the range of government programs providing employment, education, and training services, the integration and coordination of these services (or lack thereof) has been a concern of policymakers and program administers over the past two decades. To assist in these efforts, several studies have focused on ways to improve the coordination of employment and training services for low-income and other populations (Bailis, 1989; Trutko, et al., 1991; and Holcomb, et al., 1993). Many of these studies focus on the coordination between JTPA and one-stop service centers and a range of other programs including welfare-to-work programs operated through JOBS or TANF, the employment service, adult and vocational education, economic development, and rehabilitation services. Based on a review of this literature, this section discusses models of coordination as well as the benefits and barriers of service coordination. The paper also discusses issues raised in the literature specifically related to the coordination of the workforce development and welfare system. Finally, based on previous studies, this section identifies factors that could potentially foster coordination.