Mrs. Kristen Cox
Executive Director, Utah Workforce Services
While the Workforce Investment Act provides critical services for America’s workforce, its effectiveness can be hampered by overly restrictive requirements or outdated business processes. It is designed—like most mandates—through a focus on policy and oversight rather than on effective system design.
Integrating policy with efficient business process design and a focus on outcomes would eliminate waste and provide more value to the customer while maintaining funds for job training and related activities. What follows are a few recommendations to eliminate waste and improve the system. These, and other similar recommendations Utah is considering internally, take into account wasteful activities such as unnecessary hand-offs and time spent on approvals, reworks, and duplication—just to name a few.
National Emergency Grants
Allow states to retain more resources to respond to emergency lay-offs as compared to the current National Emergency Grant process. Today, it can take months for a state’s NEG request to be approved—preventing states from responding to layoffs when the need is greatest.
The level of effort required to provide data validation is not worth the limited benefit. Data validation of 800 cases does provide limited case trend information, but a smaller case sample—100, for example, would provide basically the same information. Over a two month period, a total of six to eight staff are dedicated to a process that produces limited results or outcomes. For data validation to have this kind of impact for a small state like Utah implies that the national implications are significant. The effort required from DOL for data validation far exceeds the dozens of other programs administered by the Department of Workforce Services.
Flexibility between Funding Streams
Current funding formulas require states to spend an allocated dollar amount within a specific training category, i.e., youth, dislocated worker, and adult. If there is a greater need in one category than another, we are unable to transfer funds between the youth category and the adult/dislocated worker categories. There have been instances when funds have gone unspent in one category and could have been used in another. States should be given the flexibility to use funds based on local economic need.
Verification of Social Security Numbers and Information
DOL has not taken the lead in coordinating the electronic verification of social security information. Manually providing the data incurs a great deal of waste in time and effort. States currently obtain social security information in an electronic format for other programs such as TANF and SNAP, but DOL training programs are behind the times in allowing the electronic verification of social security information.
Consolidation of the Trade Adjustment Act with WIA Training Programs
Training programs authorized under TAA ultimately benefit the same individuals served under WIA. Case in point: regardless of whether a worker lost his/her job because of work going out of the country or because of downsizing, the result is the same—a lost job. Allowing a state to integrate the funding and reduce duplicative administrative functions would improve efficiency and create equity among customer groups currently being served under different programs.
Many other areas could be improved such as the grant process, reporting, and state plan requirements. With the right focus and design thinking, WIA could become a much leaner and efficient program and significantly impact America’s competitiveness.