Workforce Investment Act:
One-Stop Centers Implemented Strategies to Strengthen Services and Partnerships, but More Research and Information Sharing is Needed
GAO-03-725: Published: Jun 18, 2003. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2003.
To create a more comprehensive workforce investment system, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 requires states and localities to coordinate most federally funded employment and training services into a single system, called the one-stop center system. This report examines how selected one-stop centers have used the law's flexibility to implement their own vision of WIA and provides information on promising practices for (1) streamlining services for job seekers, (2) engaging the employer community, (3) building a solid one-stop infrastructure by strengthening partnerships across programs and raising additional funds. In addition, it provides information on the actions the Department of Labor is taking to collect and share information about what is working well for job seeker and employer customers in one-stop centers.
Of the 14 one-stop centers in GAO's study that were identified as exemplary by government officials and workforce development experts, all had implemented a range of promising practices to streamline services for jobseekers, engage the employer community, and built a solid one-stop infrastructure. The one-stop centers GAO visited streamlined services for job seekers by ensuring access to needed services, educating program staff about all of the one-stop services available to job seekers, and consolidating case management and intake procedures. In addition, all of the one-stop centers GAO visited used at least one of the following three methods to engage employers--dedicating specialized staff to work with employers or industries, working with employers through intermediaries, such as Chambers of Commerce or economic development entities, or tailoring services to meet specific employers' needs. To provide the infrastructure to support better services for job seekers and employers, many of the one-stops GAO visited found innovative ways to strengthen program partnerships and to raise additional funds beyond those provided under WIA. Center operators fostered the development of strong program partnerships by encouraging partner collaboration through functional work teams and joint projects, and they raised additional funds through fee-based services, grants, and contributions from partners and state or local governments. While Labor currently tracks outcome data--such as job placement, job seeker satisfaction and employer satisfaction--and funds several studies to evaluate workforce development programs and service delivery models, little is known about the impact of various one-stop service delivery approaches on these and other outcomes. Labor's studies largely take a program-by-program approach rather than focusing on the impact on job seekers of various one-stop integrated service delivery approaches, such as sharing customer intake forms across programs, or on employers, such as dedicating staff to focus on engaging and serving employers. Further, Labor's efforts to collaborate with other federal agencies to assess the effects of different strategies to integrate job seeker services or to serve employers through the one-stop system have been limited. While Labor has developed a promising practices Web site to facilitate such information sharing, it is unclear how well the site currently meets this objective.
Recommendations for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: Labor committed to collaborating with the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Health and Human Services (HHS) on cross-cutting research. Labor began working with HHS on a research project on low-wage workers benefits and services. In addition, Labor will be working jointly with Education, HUD, and HHS to identify areas of common interest for the development of a research agenda around those areas. Labor is collaborating on a number of inter-agency initiatives that relate to transportation, the chronically homeless, the disabled, veterans, financial literacy services, commerce and entrepreneurship, and services for the limited English speaking. Workgroups comprised of Assistant Secretaries and senior managers from Labor, Education, HHS, VA and Transportation, are creating initiatives resulting in state and local level activity that often have research components on the specific project or demonstration being carried out. Furthermore, Labor is implementing the OMB-approved common performance measures on all grantee programming, as are the other major federal agencies. The data collection and reporting on common measures should enable the other Departments to review outcomes on similar measures and populations to promote higher integration of service policies, however data based on the new system will not be available nationally for several years.
Recommendation: In order to better understand and disseminate information on how well different approaches to program integration are meeting the needs of one-stop job seekers and employers, the Secretary of Labor should collaborate with the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development to develop a research agenda that examines the impacts of various approaches to program integration on job seeker and employer satisfaction and outcomes, such as job placement and retention.
Agency Affected: Department of Labor
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: Labor has undertaken a strategic review of all of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) web sites that communicate information from ETA to the workforce investment system and GAO's other customers/stakeholders. Labor said that as a result of this review of ETA's communication strategies, and taking into account the resources available for this activity, the Promising Practices site was consolidated into the Workforce Tools of the Trade site (http://www.workforcetools.org/), which is targeted to workforce professionals. Some of the technology and vocabulary that was developed under the Promising Practices site will be used in Workforce Tools of the Trade, which will provide better access to best practice information to the targeted group of individuals who need access to this information.
Recommendation: In order to better understand and disseminate information on how well different approaches to program integration are meeting the needs of one-stop job seekers and employers, the Secretary of Labor should conduct a systematic evaluation of the promising practices Web site and ensure that it is effective.
Agency Affected: Department of Labor