I recently had the honor of working with close to 100 local workforce development board members from across the state of Oklahoma, and was so impressed with their positive energy and intentions!. State officials worked in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Dallas Regional Office to promote and sponsor the event. This highly collaborative event convened at Oklahoma State University brought together board members, including board chairs, business members and board staff and a robust representation of Local Elected Officials (LEOs),to explore the many important elements of the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and to train board members in their critical roles – among them to think and act more strategically in the years ahead.
We covered the essential elements of the new legislation, gave folks an overview of how the law would change the way they do business, and encouraged them to embrace acting within the State’s new planning regions. But, as we at Maher always do, I pushed beyond the terms of the law to ask folks to consider a vision of a transformed workforce development system in a “post-WIOA” world. I talked of a workforce system that was more impactful, more integrated, more future-focused, and more effective in helping to build a “talent supply chain” for targeted sectors and driving economic prosperity for communities across Oklahoma. The resulting talent pipeline would alter all of our jobs – from board members to one-stop managers, job counselors, and business services representatives. It would need to provide pathways for ALL job seekers, even the hardest to serve.
After a robust discussion with the large group, we broke into regionally focused planning teams to create a “plan to plan” – something they would begin to act on and expand on after returning home. A few key themes came from this meeting that I think are worthy of sharing:
Proceed Until Apprehended! WIOA will be as transformational as state and local leaders make it, but there is a real need for the workforce system to become a talent engine for regional economies. That will require moving forcefully and boldly. Be bold!
Build Strong Partnerships Now. WIOA brings new mandatory partners into the workforce system, and we should be working NOW to open a dialogue and build a shared vision, create understanding about roles and responsibilities, and create trust. Early discussions now will make it easier to address tougher issues later (like cost-sharing MOUs, team-based case management and more).
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel. Find emerging best practices and bring them to scale. I’ve been talking about a “talent pipeline” for too long now. In truth, it isn’t a new idea anymore and many people are doing something like it in regions and local areas around the country. You can find shining examples of excellence in your state – believe me. We don’t need to create these solutions from scratch. Solutions exist. We need to find them, promote them, and bring them to scale.
The folks I had a chance to work with in Oklahoma City were engaged, interested and willing. They WANT to do a great job with WIOA and they are eager to change in order to realize their vision for a post-WIOA world for workforce development. We wish them all the best as they push forward from this great start!
Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The firm is the national Technical Assistance (TA) contractor for Sector Strategies for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) as well as the TA contractor supporting ETA’s implementation of WIOA. For more information about our services visit us at www.mahernet.com or call us at 1-888-90-Maher.