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Tech-Powered WIOA Collaboration

By Melissa Deets, Workforce Solutions Specialist, Monster Government Solutions

When it comes to WIOA success, there’s one thing we know for sure: collaboration is king. To achieve the fundamental goals of getting Americans back to work and successfully competing in the global economy, our workforce development programs, employers, and educational institutions have to be working together in lockstep. In fact, a recent study by the Governing Institute found that 76 percent of state workforce leaders cited improved stakeholder collaboration as a major benefit of the legislation. Great, so most of us agree. Now how do we actually make it happen? 

The solution falls into two major buckets - collecting great workforce data and making sure stakeholders have easy access to it. WIOA specifically calls for “improving the use of technology and data to break down silos, improve decision-making, reduce administrative costs, and transform citizen service.” Sounds simple, but like most things, it’s easier said than done. The Governing Institute study found significant concerns around the ability of state technology systems to deliver on this data-driven vision, with top challenges including:

● Connecting disparate stakeholder IT systems 
● Establishing a common intake process for new data sources 
● Improving communication and mobility services for citizens 

Data sharing is essential, but it all starts with gathering the right information. As states took the lead on building out their comprehensive WIOA plans, many also took the lead on gathering and analyzing valuable statewide data as well. For example, Michigan enlisted economists and statisticians to deliver strategic labor market information to regional workforce stakeholders to inform better decision-making. WIOA prompts the need for state labor shed analyses and the creation of regional skills inventories so workforce leaders can understand the competencies their citizens have, identify gaps based on employer needs, and inform development strategies. Partners like Monster can deliver this real-time labor intelligence to achieve visibility into current economic development challenges, opportunities, and progress. 

It’s one thing to have the data. Making sure every stakeholder has easy access to it is a whole other ballgame. We’re talking about integrating information across multiple government agency systems and combining it with data from the private sector. To facilitate this, you need data sharing agreements across every stakeholder, and if you’re still using siloed legacy systems, it’s time to start investigating the world of cloud computing and open application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs ensure that systems are talking to each other, and the cloud offers easy access to data and applications online. In fact, emerging case management solutions are paving the way for seamless data integration and analysis, delivering unprecedented insights into the skills of their regional workforce and the needs of employers in high-growth sectors.   

Online state career centers are taking this collaboration to another level, bringing together geographically distributed job seekers, employers, educators, state agencies and WDB staff together within a single statewide portal. Monster Labor Exchanges enable employers to access the largest talent database in their state, while citizens can easily apply for jobs, research educational programs, take assessments, and explore new career paths - from any location and any device. A great example of this innovation in action comes from Washington State, which recently launched one of the most innovative labor exchanges in the country - WorkSourceWA.com. 

This statewide job-matching platform uses the case management technology mentioned above to capture and share data with all relevant stakeholders from one centralized location. Washington employers benefit from access to the largest talent database in the state and advanced candidate search tools that empower recruiters to save time sifting through mountains of resumes and focus on engaging only the right folks for the job.

By providing a public “one-stop workforce shop” states like Washington are able to efficiently match employers with the talent they need to grow, and citizens with the resources they need to build competitive skillsets. With this many stakeholders, collaboration is never going to be easy, but technology can truly be a game-changer. You’d be surprised how cost-effective modernizing can be, and the benefits of ensuring everyone is always on the same page is priceless.  

For more on WIOA and how Monster Government Solutions can help you visit our  Monster WIOA Resource Center. 

 

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Empowering an Industry-Led Approach

By Melissa Deets, Workforce Solutions Specialist, Monster Government Solutions

The single most important strategic shift from Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is employer engagement. 

It’s easy to think of “job openings” as a static list of opportunities that can be filled by raising our collective foundational skills, but the reality is so much more dynamic and complex. One of the main goals of WIOA is to ensure employers have access to the talent they need to compete in today’s global economy, and the numbers paint a challenging picture of the skills gap we’re facing as a nation. 

The most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a near record number of available jobs in the U.S., and yet hiring remains stagnant. When combined with the projected gap of 11 million U.S. workers with postsecondary education by 2022, it’s clear that we don’t have an opportunity problem, we have a skills shortage. The only way we’re going to close the gap is to take an industry-led approach where our workforce strategies start with employer needs and work back, built on a foundation of increased collaboration and data sharing. 

Business services have always been a critical function of Workforce Development Boards (WDBs), but WIOA is forcing us to take our game to the next level. It starts with building closer, longer-term relationships with employers in our regions. Job fairs and employer surveys are great, but real change requires an ongoing dialogue with regional companies in high-growth sectors. Every community is unique, and it’s critical that business leaders have a seat at the workforce development table to clearly communicate the specialized skills they need to be competitive and drive local economies forward. 

To encourage industry collaboration, offer incentives for getting involved - like access to regional talent pools, online employment portals to post jobs, labor market information and specialized training programs in their sectors. It’s about building an ongoing dialogue where employers are treated like valued customers. Business leaders understand the challenge they are facing and want to be involved in creating solutions, and it’s our job to make engagement as easy as possible. Emerging case management and CRM solutions can help WDBs track the talent needs of individual businesses, proactively deliver relevant services, and track progress in real-time. 

On that note, we can’t forget about the data. WDBs have access to more labor market information than ever before, and now we actually have analytics tools that can make sense of it. From identifying current skills gaps to predicting the talent needs of the future, real-time labor intelligence is providing WDBs with the insight they need to directly align workforce development strategies to the unique hiring goals of local employers. When this big picture data is combined with “boots on the ground” insight from industry leaders, it creates continuous feedback loops that are essential to evolving training, education, and development programs to support the most pressing regional talent needs. 

This strategy is industry-led, but we’ll only achieve success through close collaboration with educational partners. It’s no coincidence that the University of Maryland offers a Masters Degree in Cybersecurity in the heart of our national security infrastructure, or that Rutgers University offers an MBA in Pharmaceutical Management near the epicenter of the pharmaceutical industry. WIOA is asking us to take this same approach across community college and professional training programs. Build development strategies that directly map back to the needs of local high growth industries, using WIOA-recommended tactics like incumbent worker training and Registered Apprenticeships. Employers are incentivized to take action through increased reimbursement rates for on-the-job and customized training. Through increased collaboration and data sharing, employers gain access to a more qualified talent pool and educational organizations benefit from greater demand for these specialized, region-specific programs. 

Most importantly, this industry-led approach leads to stronger regional economies and keeps the U.S. competitive globally. Stay tuned for my next post to learn more about the technology and data sharing best practices that are driving the WIOA era of workforce collaboration! 

For more on WIOA and how Monster Government Solutions visit our 
Monster WIOA Resource Center. 

 

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Connecting with Disconnected Youth

By Melissa Deets, Workforce Solutions Specialist, Monster Government Solutions

A minimum of 75 percent of State and Local Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding must be used for out-of-school youth programs, and the age range of this at-risk demographic has been expanded from 16-21 to 16-24 to encompass young adults. This demographic desperately needs access to career resources and opportunities. 

A recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics found that 45 percent of high school dropouts between the ages of 20-24 are currently unemployed. That’s way too many young people that do not have a path to providing for their families and becoming productive members of their communities. A lot of at-risk youth face real obstacles. Some at-risk youth have never had a job, not to mention a solid resume. Without information and resources on how to build a career path, the alternative path for their futures are bleak. 

So how can we reconnect with disconnected youth? The first step is letting people know that there are resources available to them. With today’s young people, you need to reach them where they are - and that begins online. When I was a caseworker, even if I did not know where youth clients were located, I knew they were on their phones, tablets, or interacting online. A recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that 90 percent of 18-29 year-olds use social media, 82 percent of those individuals use Facebook. It is critical that workforce development boards (WDBs) leverage social media channels to engage youth, and direct them to customized resource centers for more information that can help them change their lives. 

And while these “new school” engagement approaches are extremely effective, we can’t forget about tried and true, old-school methods. We’ve seen a number of WDBs use tools like Google Maps to identify neighborhoods with clusters of disconnected youth, and use that data to inform “boots on the ground” strategies. There’s no substitute for getting out into the community, listening to the challenges folks are dealing with on a personal level, and sharing information on how we can help. For example, Monster’s “Making it Count” workshops have reached more than 25 million youths with available resources for finding jobs, internships, apprenticeships, educational programs, and financial aid opportunities. 

Once disconnected youth know about these resources and are engaged within the system, it is important to get them excited and keep them excited. Many of these youth clients are the first members of their families to get a GED, or be certified for a trade skill. It’s important to get them pumped up about being a trailblazer that’s reshaping the direction of their lives. There are quick wins like the personality assessments and career development tools that I discussed in my previous post, and those are critical to building excitement initially, but the difficult part is maintaining engagement over the long haul. Celebrating mini milestones along the way is critical to success. Did your youth clients get to class on time? Did he or she earn a credential? Send them a congratulatory text, track their overall progress towards their goals, and keep delivering that positive reinforcement throughout the process. Youth are often tackling these life skills for the first time. That ongoing sense of success and accomplishment, even if it’s small, can provide the motivation they need to keep going!

 

For more on WIOA and how Monster Government Solutions visit our 
Monster WIOA Resource Center

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Focusing on Career Development

By Melissa Deets, Workforce Solutions Specialist, Monster Government Solutions

One of the most exciting aspects of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is that success will now be measured over the long haul, through metrics that are directly tied to people improving their lives by helping them find careers and not just a job.  

WIOA sets out to help citizens obtain employment that will lead to financial stability and economic security for themselves and their families. We’re talking about giving people the tools they need to earn a family-sustaining wage over a lifetime. This means tracking key performance indicators like job retention, earnings increases and credential achievement over an extended period of time, rather than measuring “quick win” job placements every quarter. 

In other words, we’ve moved from asking “how quickly can we get someone a job?” to “how can we help someone build a career?” Which is incredibly important, because you know what they say about teaching a man to fish...

Building a career starts with a vision, but dreams can be intimidating to reach, especially for folks that are essentially starting from scratch. That’s why WIOA focuses on career pathways, which outline the necessary steps - in the form of educational degrees, certifications, apprenticeships, or professional experience - required to reach a professional destination. But how can we help folks get started?

One strategy that works well is to start with the end goal and work back. What are the hottest industries in that person’s community? What types of skills are local employers looking for? What types of positions will pay enough to provide for their family? WIOA is pushing workforce boards from around the country to capture and deliver this information to citizens, along with resources like “day in the life” videos outlining the roles and responsibilities of certain professions.

At Monster Government Solutions, we’ve had success taking people through our career planning tools, which helps them understand potential options and maps out the steps in their professional journey. These career planning tools can be found in our Monster Career Center solution. The solution gives job seekers a wealth of career planning tools including a resume builder, career-path advice, education and training materials, budget calculators, skills assessments, and more. These tools help job seekers get a feel for what’s out there, what they could be, and it makes the promise of a new life more tangible. 

The foundation of long-lasting careers are often built on answers to questions like “what would I be good at?” and “what would I enjoy?” Before we can help someone create a career pathway, we have to know where they are from a basic skills perspective (math, writing, verbal communication), which is why WIOA’s requirement to conduct upfront assessments is critical to guiding initial training recommendations. We’ve also seen personality assessments like our Traitify tool play an important role in helping job seekers uncover careers that they would enjoy and thrive in. Matching someone’s interests and strengths to their professional path is essential to achieving WIOA’s goals of long-term job satisfaction and retention.  

Once a job seeker has a realistic direction that he or she is excited about, it’s time to put a tactical plan in place. A great first step is getting folks signed up for training to close any foundational skills gaps. The good news is that WIOA’s emphasis on distance learning solutions are making all sorts of education programs more accessible than ever before.

Providing career pathway tools is critical for helping people develop careers so that they can achieve economic security, and eventually prosperity, for themselves and their families. 

For more on WIOA and how Monster Government Solutions can help visit our 
Monster WIOA Resource Center. 

 

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Executing the Vision of WIOA

By Melissa Deets, Workforce Solutions Specialist, Monster Government Solutions

So you wanted a more collaborative, strategic approach to workforce development and addressing talent shortages in our country? Well now we’ve got one. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is an absolute game-changer for state and local workforce boards, educational institutions, employers, and citizens across the country. The focus on long-term success and investing in our nation’s overall competitiveness is a critical shift in mindset. For the first time ever, all of the key stakeholders are sitting together at the same table with the same goals, including:

      Empowering citizens to build long-term careers, rather than focusing “quick win” job placement.

      Tailoring services more closely to specific regional employment and workforce needs.

      Integrating education partners seamlessly into the process to help address critical skill gaps.

      Engaging the most vulnerable segments of our society - including disconnected youth and people with disabilities - and providing them with the resources they need to thrive in today’s workforce.

      Improving the use of technology and data to break down silos, improve decision-making, reduce administrative costs, and transform citizen service.

You can feel the excitement in the air, with maybe just a touch of nervousness. A recent study by the Governing Institute found that 81 percent of state leaders think WIOA is a positive shift in the right direction, with 76 percent citing improved stakeholder collaboration as a major benefit of the legislation, and 46 percent citing the opportunity for better alignment with educational institutions. 

But with major transformation comes major responsibility, and for state and local workforce boards, the obstacle is in the details. First and foremost, WIOA calls for the creation of unified state workforce plans, which will require unprecedented levels of collaboration and data sharing, in addition to far more comprehensive reporting requirements. To facilitate the creation of these plans, the Federal Government is providing robust state planning resources in addition to helpful training tools, but some workforce boards are still facing technology gaps when it comes time to execute.

The previously mentioned Governing Institute study also outlined the top WIOA technological gap challenges that are keeping state leaders up at night: 

1)    Connecting disparate systems to enable data sharing across stakeholders,

2)    Upgrading current systems to be more flexible and support mobility,

3)    Establishing a common intake process for all of the new data sources that need to be collected, analyzed, and shared,

4)    Improving communication and mobility services for citizens that don’t have the necessary technology in their homes, and

5)    Ensuring connectivity, particularly in rural parts of the country that lack the necessary broadband resources.

Clearly technology presents challenges, but it also provides opportunities. Emerging tools have the potential to put real-time labor market intelligence at the fingertips of employers and educational institutions to facilitate better decision-making. Citizens are gaining access to distance learning solutions to quickly and efficiently close skill gaps. Career portals are facilitating new levels of collaboration and delivering customized services to at-risk populations, while case management technologies are helping workforce boards treat their citizens like valued customers.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be diving into the strategies and technologies that are already helping states to deliver  the vision of WIOA, and I look forward to continuing the discussion with all of you!

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