The Case for Regionalism | Maher & Maher
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The Case for Regionalism

The successful implementation of sector strategies and other key transformational elements in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) occurs at the regional level. But, without a universally accepted definition of a functional economic region, some states have chosen to designate their local workforce areas as “regions;” a move that can overlook the tremendous value of true economic regions in their state. As states seek to designate economic regions, we encourage them to consider two key factors that are generally included in most definitions that can help their guide decisions: 1) The region represents a cohesive network of trade in goods, services and labor, and 2) Data is the common element in identifying such regions.

Maher’s extensive experience working with states and regions strongly indicates that regional approaches built around identifying and operating in economic regions lend themselves to more successful sector strategies. There are lots of reasons for this:

data analysis

  • Economic activity, employers, industries and career seekers do not recognize or care about workforce area boundaries, and all cross those lines willingly in order to find adequate employees and good jobs.
  • By definition, planning in economic regions would ensure a sufficient critical mass of industry-specific businesses, jobs and labor necessary to build strategies in each region. It is therefore far easier to recruit, engage and develop meaningful, long-term partnerships with employers if organized on the basis of functional regional economies
  • The larger number and more diverse nature of the assets available in these larger regions would lend themselves far better to supporting and implementing the strategies developed.
  • Regional planning could lead logically to the regional outreach and even delivery of services to employers, a far more efficient and effective approach that overcomes the challenge that employers most often cite in dealing with the workforce system – multiple and often conflicting contacts by multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
  • Regional lines could be drawn in a way that avoids dividing a local workforce area between two regions, and local workforce areas could remain the locus of service delivery to career seekers.

 

Conversations about forming economic regions can, understandably, be difficult. Our experience, however, is that creating economic regions – and then a shared vision for each region – based on solid data, is an effective way to begin these discussions and then collaboratively engage in sectors planning and customer-focused service delivery.  When we turn our attention to customers – employers and jobseekers – as opposed to programs and funding, wonderful things can happen! As we engage around an economic region that makes sense in what we do – prepare workers for good jobs – that is precisely where the focus is.

Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The firm is U.S. Department of Labor’s national technical assistance provider supporting the Employment and Training Administration’s implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and a number of other priority initiatives of the administration that advance and promote the public workforce system. Maher is also currently involved in a number of sector strategy, regional planning, organizational strategic planning and training initiatives in multiple state and regional areas. For more information about our services, visit our website or call us at 1-888-90-Maher.

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