Last week’s “Responding Rapidly” Summit in Harrisburg, PA gave us the opportunity to think through the future of Rapid Response with a high-energy group of professionals throughout ETA’s Region 2 states – and it was a conversation that may need to happen across the Nation’s Workforce Development System.
Working with our V.P. of Workforce Innovation, Beth Brinly, and about 110 Rapid Responders from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, I was able – for the first time really – to think through the future of this critical program as it might function in a post-WIOA world.
Fortunately, in many areas, Rapid Response is not as overwhelmed as it once was with large scale dislocations. During the Great Recession and for years in its wake, Rapid Responders were very busy responding to events – meeting with businesses that were down-sizing (or worse) and with all too many workers whose jobs were disappearing and not coming back. Just responding to events took up most of the time and resources available, and there, frankly, wasn’t time for much else. Today, although responding to dislocation events is always a top priority, the pace has slowed as economic conditions have stabilized in many economic regions.
“While those responses from the audience didn’t shock me,” said Brinly, “that is definitely not in the best interests of the Rapid Response community nor does it help planners charting the future course of our economic regions. Rapid Response has such great information on the at-risk sectors in a given region, has relationships with businesses and knows the competencies of at-risk workers. They need to be part of the planning process and integrated into a post-WIOA System.”
Working through future scenarios, participants began to imagine where dislocations might occur in their communities if layoff aversion tactics are not used, and how workers in those sectors might be able to transition to careers in other, growth-oriented sectors. Focusing on scenarios that were possible, gave them better focus on how they could help in planning. Ideas included:
Rapid Response has much to add to a future Workforce System as imagined by WIOA, and their role is not ONLY responding to dislocation events. They are partners that offer insights and relationships with both businesses and workers that need to be a part of regional plans and regional talent pipelines, such as, vigorous business assessment programs.