Retaining employees is part of that challenge, and keeping employees skilled and ensuring they perform at a high level goes a long way toward retention efforts.
Since it was developed, workforce executives increasingly have been using the publicly funded workforce system, as my personal experience can attest. The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was designed to coordinate most, if not all, of the federally funded workforce training programs.
One of the major aspects of the legislation was to create the nation’s one-stop career center systems. State and local workforce investment boards, which are business-led, are responsible for setting up policies that affect the operations of the states’ one-stop career center systems. One of their major goals is to help businesses find and retain workers. These systems are similar to other public career centers, although their goal is to be more business-focused.
How can talent managers access these centers and get them to help solve some of their talent issues?
In the beginning, when I was the chairman of the Washington D.C.-based Metro Tech IT Training program, I was skeptical about how a $20 million publicly funded training program could be managed through three states’ one-stop centers and satisfy the needs of businesses. Most public training program funds are allocated and spent with really no business involvement until the participants are trained.
So, the Metro Tech board (along with the Department of Labor) decided to change the standard model for funding workforce programs. We decided we needed to get the employers more involved in the beginning of the recruiting and training process.
To do that, we determined the one-stop career centers would have unemployed workers who were eligible for the program first meet with possible employers. If the employers felt a candidate would fit into their organization, then the project would invest in training.
I felt the best part of the program was not only that the future employers had the opportunity to choose their candidates for the program but that they had the ability to select the training provider.
This was big, as employers usually feel more comfortable with a training provider that will satisfy their needs. They also became more comfortable using the one-stop career system, and those relationships continue today.
The results for this program were outstanding. We trained more than 3,000 and employed many more who didn’t need the training. Businesses were excited to participate and are still very much engaged in their local centers.
Today, nearly three years after the program, many of the businesses involved with Metro Tech still have working relationships with their local one-stop career centers. These centers help companies find the employees they need in the tight labor market of Washington, D.C.
You should check with your local workforce board for more information on the business services offered by your one-stop career centers. More and more states offer online solutions to help companies find and train workers.
Florida has reinvented its publicly funded workforce system, and its one-stop system is one of the best. The Employ Florida system (www.employflorida.com) has nearly 100 centers and now has a virtual one- stop center to help employers. It has local labor market information, recruitment services, training services, information on tax-training grants and many more services designed to help employers find and retain talent.
Texas is another state that keeps reinventing its system. With more than 200 centers statewide, Texas has one of the largest one-stop career center systems in the nation. About a year ago, it went virtual and launched www.workintexas.com, a site dedicated to helping individuals and employers connect in Texas. It also has several state-funded worker training programs to help employers keep their employees’ skills up to date.
Oregon, with its newly revamped workforce site (www.worksourceoregon.com), offers a program called iMatch. This is an online system that matches employers’ skill needs with those of prospective candidates.
How should companies start using the publicly funded workforce system and the career one-stop centers?
First, meet with your local workforce board. In most states, these boards are responsible for the operations and services delivered by the career centers.
Second, you can meet directly with the career center manager and work with his or her teams to seek out the types of employees your company needs. As people come into the center looking for employment, your company can be one of the first the career center team recommends.
The career center also would be the place to look for new training programs and training-grant opportunities. Most training grants today require business involvement.
During the Metro Tech program, we showed the business community in our area that the system can be responsive to its needs — we just needed to engage the businesses in the process.