Although it is critical for the nation’s future economic success, workforce development has not been a national priority. In part, this is because of competition for public funds and attention, but also because of a perception of poor training results and little understanding or knowledge of the emerging successes. Paradoxically, the broad tasks of advancing workers, increasing business productivity, and enhancing regional competitiveness span so many institutions and stakeholders that they inhibit the necessary attention and public support. As the nation strives to build a more effective workforce development system, the workforce intermediary strategy can serve as an effective way to simplify the system for both business and workers, and foster their long-term advancement. Part of the strategy for achieving this success is building a broad constituency for action. Building that constituency requires:
- Engaging business as a driving force in support of this effort;
- Building new coalitions and alliances across traditional dividing lines, especially in states and regions. In Massachusetts, the Direct Care Worker Initiative, led by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, brought together employers, business, consumers, unions, and the workforce training community to advocate for enhanced wages and upgraded training for health care workers. These types of alliances will need to be expanded to have the high impact that is necessary;
- Engaging political leadership at all levels. The issues raised in this report merit attention from such organizations as the National Governors’ Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and others to inform political leaders at all levels about what workforce intermediaries can do;
- Expanding the voice of the workforce development community. At the local, state, and national levels, the Workforce Alliance is providing valuable leadership in increasing the presence of the workforce development community in policy and legislative discussions;
- Emphasizing workforce development as an essential element of economic policy at the federal, state, and local government levels. This includes forging new alliances that integrate workforce development goals with those of economic development organizations, including the Council on Competitiveness, the Economic Development Administration, the International Economic Development Council, and the National Congress on Community and Economic Development, and the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance.
- Expanding relationships with higher education organizations to create support for these workforce development initiatives. It is critical that groups such as the American Association for Community Colleges and other members of the American Council on Education, as well as the League for Innovation, engage their members in activities that transform post-secondary education in support of the nation’s workforce system.
- Mobilizing a broader spectrum of foundations. Regional, local, and national foundations that have invested in workforce development should continue their leadership and seek to engage other funders in support of this agenda. One promising start is an emerging group of sixty local and national foundations with an interest in workforce development that have come together under the auspices of the Neighborhood Funders Group. Another is the local funding collaboratives emerging in Baltimore, New York City, and Boston.
- Strengthening local constituencies. In the Southwest, community organizations affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation not only pioneered one of the early pilots, but then built six more workforce intermediaries in multiple states. These and similar efforts should be supported.
- Researching and documenting the nature and extent of current investments as well as the return on those investments to employers, workers, and the community. Expanded support for rigorous research that links outcomes with intermediary practices and documents the return on investment to employers, workers, and the community is needed. This research is essential for addressing misperceptions for documenting cases and context in which training works, and for justifying further public and private investment in these strategies.
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