Pathway to the Future: How Workforce Development and Quality Jobs Can Promote Quality Care Conference Package. Develop an Effective Workforce Intermediary Policy for Business, Workers, and Regions

05/01/2004

The current disjointed policy environment creates a multi-faceted problem, including funding streams that are not aligned, and have difficulty achieving meaningful results. Concerns have been expressed from many fronts, including businesses, community-based organizations, educational institutions, unions, and government agencies.

Addressing this workforce development problem will require:

  • Broadening the focus of public workforce development to provide both job applicants and incumbent workers with the skills training needed for competitiveness and career advancement in a technologically driven, globalizing economy. This requires flexibility, meaningful incentives and resources for companies, industries, labor, and business organizations to foster and engage in training, growth, and productivity.
  • Incentives aimed at encouraging business investment to hiring, training, and advancing low-wage workers need to be simple to receive, administer, and address the needs of employers and workers. For example, in Maryland, the state legislature appropriated $2 million for worker advancement training at a coalition of hospitals and other employers, leading to significant wage increases and promotions. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, contributions from sixty-one employers, belonging to a Taft-Hartley labor management trust fund under the leadership of the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, matched $3 million in federal funds to prepare 1,500 incumbent, dislocated, and new workers for careers in high-skilled nursing and allied health.
  • Supporting industry-specific workforce development strategies, which engage the self-interest of key stakeholders within a particular industry that help to organize a complex web of public and private resources into effective workforce development programs.
  • Creating strategic economic development initiatives in states, regions, and localities that fully integrate workforce and economic development. Several states have led the way by developing such plans and integrating funding streams to support them.
  • Redesigning educational financing and regulations to support workforce development. Much of the available student aid and state support for post-secondary education does not address the demands of both workers and firms. Because community colleges and other post-secondary education institutions are critical parts of the workforce development system, this needs to change. Policy makers should consider the promising results from Individual Development Accounts and the Lifelong Learning Account demonstration, and important proposals to expand Pell grant eligibility, adult education supports, and other student aid programs, especially for less than half-time students. Community colleges and other post-secondary institutions are critical parts of solving this problem because of the pending need for technical skills, certificates, and portable credentials.
  • Maintaining and enhancing adequate work supports that enable workers to succeed and business to increase retention. Child care, transportation, health care, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and food stamps are essential to ensuring that no one who works should be in poverty and that workers can succeed and progress on the job. These supports should also be accessible and available for time spent in training.
  • Aligning the performance measures required by diverse funding streams to get real accountability while supporting career advancement goals. Although a great deal of work must be done to get the measures right, this Assembly commends current efforts to establish consistent outcome measures for diverse federal programs. Congress and the Administration should continue with this effort, making sure that their work reflects the real needs of business and workers. For example, many intermediaries, businesses, state and local officials, and others report ongoing difficulties and confusion around conflicting standards among the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and other publicly funded workforce development programs (e.g. TANF, Perkins). These should be remedied in upcoming reauthorizations. Outcome measures in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) must be revised to reward employment and advancement outcomes rather than just caseload reduction.
  • Developing new ways to capture the effects of workforce interventions on businesses, workers, and labor markets. While the current workforce system stresses the importance of actual customer focus, current measures do not adequately capture the benefits that accrue to employers by participating in this system. Several new efforts are under way by the Aspen Institute, National Governors Association, and others to develop and test new demand-side measures that begin to address this problem.

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