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Washington, D.C—Today, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) announced the release of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on innovative collaborations between local workforce boards and employers.  The report highlights characteristics of successful partnerships addressing regional economic and employment needs, and calls on the Department of Labor to disseminate promising practices. The lessons learned from these partnerships will help inform efforts across the country to develop a skilled workforce.

Read the full GAO report here

Tomorrow, Thursday February 16, at 10:00 AM the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety will hold a bipartisan hearing in 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building to highlight and discuss some of the partnerships covered in the study.

“This report makes it absolutely clear that strong partnerships are the key to effective worker training in communities across America,” said Senator Patty Murray. “As our economy gets more complex and our workforce more diverse, we need to make sure that we are investing in the most effective partnerships and programs to move workers into good careers in the growing local industries that need them.”

“I look forward to hearing from GAO and the witnesses tomorrow about some of the best practices among existing public-private partnerships and how we can better encourage and support innovation and more efficient programs,” said Senator Johnny Isakson. “ It is important that we meet the needs of today’s workers and are prepared for tomorrow’s demands in a competitive workplace. In this tough economy, it is imperative that we are creative in fostering partnerships that offer meaningful training for workers to help them gain the skills necessary in order to have a competitive economy.”

“Training Americans for the jobs available in their communities is key to helping them maintain a middle class lifestyle,” said Senator Tom Harkin.“This report demonstrates that there is a lot we can learn from the innovative and successful work being done by employers and workforce boards across the country, and I hope that it will help inform our continued work to improve the federal job training system and ensure that American workers and employers have the skills and resources needed to succeed in today's labor market.” 

“This report emphasizes what we already know, that involving employers in workforce solutions opens doors for career advancement as well as industry growth,” said Senator Mike Enzi. “It is time to take steps now, because employers are unable to find workers with the knowledge and skills they need to fill open jobs.  In order to help Americans prepare for good, high-wage jobs as the economy recovers, education and training programs must be demand driven and responsive to get people back to work.”

GAO Report Background

To inform the HELP committee’s work on worker training issues, the Senators requested at the beginning of this Congress that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examine examples of partnerships at the local level between workforce boards and employers that worked well and identify why they were effective.

The GAO started this process by requesting nominations from recognized workforce system stakeholders of promising local initiatives that engage the workforce board as a strategic partner and involve at least one economic development partner, education partner, and one major Department of Labor (DOL) programs required under WIA to provide services through the one-stop system; and is data-driven, involves collaborative strategic planning, and demonstrates positive results.

From the nominations, GAO selected 14 initiatives for an in-depth review. After reviewing the 14 case studies, GAO identified six common factors that contributed to their success –

  • Focusing on urgent needs: addressing similar needs for multiple employers across a sector; working together to define the scope of common problem; finding common ground to develop solutions.
  • Leadership: Involving leaders with authority or persuasive ability; using a neutral convener to build trust.
  • Leveraging resources: using resources such as grants to attract support; finding way to build on limited WIA funds; attracting employer contribution and in-kind support.
  • Employer-responsive services: employing staff with industry knowledge; tailoring services to address employers’ specific needs; making training services more relevant and useful to employers; serving a diverse mix of jobseekers and workers to address employers’ needs.
  • Minimizing administrative burden: streamlining data collection methods; having a single point of contact or program manager; limiting length, frequency, or focus of meetings;
  • Demonstrating results: increasing supply of skilled workers; helping employers address recruitment and turnover; increasing skills for jobseekers and workers; placing jobseekers in jobs; increasing employer involvement in the workforce system; achieving cost savings or efficiency improvements.

As a result, GAO recommended that DOL strengthen its efforts to share information on effective practices in each of these areas, especially leveraging additional resources, in a comprehensive and easily accessible method such as the Department’s website for workforce information, Workforce3One.org. The Department agreed and plans to implement the recommendations.