Research Suggests Changes for our Nation’s Workforce Development System

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Four leading researchers (Public Policy Associates, Inc., Berkeley Policy Associates, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, and the University of California-San Diego) are calling for a “re-imagining” of the Workforce Development Act (WIA) to promote the creation of talent development systems that foster regional cooperation and prepare workers not only for the jobs of today – but for the jobs of tomorrow.

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With the nation still struggling to recover economically, the need for developing and deploying a high-skilled work force is more important than ever. Four leading researchers (Public Policy Associates, Inc., Berkeley Policy Associates, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, and the University of California-San Diego) are calling for a “re-imagining” of the Workforce Development Act (WIA) to promote the creation of talent development systems that foster regional cooperation and prepare workers not only for the jobs of today – but for the jobs of tomorrow.

The researchers have released a white paper, “Strategic Workforce Development as a Catalyst for Economic Growth: Lessons and Insights from the Field and Implications for the Future of WIA.” The report comes at a critical moment, as Congress debates reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act which was enacted in 1998.
The researchers, who have vast experience in evaluating workforce development initiatives across the United States, recommend that the WIA be re-characterized and christened as the “Strategic Workforce Development Act.” The change would reflect the need to develop integrated workforce development systems that thrive on collaboration across functional and jurisdictional boundaries.

Too often, the researchers conclude, various workforce development entities work in their own silos. In some cases, that can result in training workers for jobs that do not match the current or future needs of employers and fail to retool America’s workforce in alignment with long-term economic goals.

By thinking and acting more strategically, workforce development leaders can work to ensure that the various stakeholders—employers, economic development and workforce development boards, community colleges, and others—collaborate to create effective approaches to transforming their regional economies and providing high-wage job opportunities for workers.

The researchers laid out three central issues to be considered in re-authorizing WIA:

  • The need to effectively integrate systems.
  • The recognition that social change and economic transformation happen most effectively at the regional level.
  • New systems of measurement and accountability are needed to assess and improve strategic workforce development efforts.

In other words, change happens best at the regional level, where partners work together, pooling their knowledge and resources to identify, address, and measure the success of efforts to address short and longer-term workforce and economic development needs.

Recently, the authors of this paper presented the findings of their most recent research at a briefing that was held at the Department of Labor in Washington D.C.
This important paper is available on Public Policy Associates, Inc.’s Web site at http://www.publicpolicy.com

Contact: Nancy Hewat, Ph.D.,
Director of the Education, Workforce, and Economic Development Group
517-485-4477

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