Since 2007, the American economy has begun a slow but steady trend toward higher unemployment nationwide. Within the Department of Labor, there are at least seven different workforce investment programs that seek to connect the unemployed to jobs; however, these programs are not yet fully integrated with one another (often referred to as being “siloed"). Having several siloed programs with different funding streams results in an inefficient system for the end-user (the unemployed American worker).
In order to most effectively respond to the needs of the end user, the Department of Labor’s Employment Training Administration (ETA) set out to remove program silos – that is, to move the workforce investment system from one where different programs work independently, to one where there is better coordination and integration between programs. In an integrated system, workers can more easily access training and job opportunities in high-growth industries, which is a crucial way that the workers of today can help to prepare our economy to meet future challenges. In order to accomplish this system integration, ETA engaged Maher & Maher to assist with the change management process.
To begin the program integration process, we worked with ETA to devise a comprehensive strategy based on research assessment data from focus groups which evaluated where workforce investment programs stood with regard to integration with one another. Together, we ultimately decided upon a phased approach to technical assistance meetings in which each segment builds upon knowledge and information gleaned and shared in previous segments and the final result is a tangible plan of process and program improvements. The first step in the plan was to plan and develop content for a National Reemployment Summit, which convened in Baltimore in January of 2009.
The National Summit brought together representatives from all seven ETA programs that touch upon reemployment in order to connect and build partnerships and systems around mutual reemployment functions. The Summit provided opportunities to train these key program representatives on new and traditional reemployment tools, to harness the energy of our state and local partners to test new approaches to reemployment integration, to educate program leaders about studies that provide the system with insight on what works and what is less effective, and, most importantly, to create a vision for a comprehensive and integrated reemployment system. The outcome of the Summit was a greater and more knowledgeable focus on how we can integrate our reemployment programs to put unemployed Americans back to work with a particular focus on getting workers engaged in green and high-growth industries.
Following the National Summit, Maher & Maher continued to provide ongoing technical assistance to continue the change management process. We created a Reemployment Community of Practice which virtually brings together program partners across the nation to share best practices, insights, and lessons learned around reemployment, and to continue to break down silos. In addition, we were asked to assist several of the Regional ETA offices to help plan their follow-up Regional Recovery and Reemployment Forums which focus on bringing together program partners from states within the particular ETA region. These Regional Forums offered an opportunity for local workforce leaders to embrace the new vision of an integrated system and to continue to streamline the process to connect the unemployed to new employment opportunities.