Workforce Investment Act:
Exemplary One-Stops Devised Strategies to Strengthen Services, but Challenges Remain for Reauthorization
GAO-03-884T, Jun 18, 2003
This testimony highlights findings from today's report on strategies that exemplary one-stop centers have implemented to strengthen and integrate services for customers and to build a solid one-stop infrastructure. It also shares findings and recommendations from our past work on challenges that states and localities have experienced as they implement WIA, which may be helpful as WIA is reauthorized.
The workforce development system envisioned under WIA represents a fundamental shift from prior systems, and barely 3 years have passed since it was fully implemented. States and localities have found ways to use the flexibility in WIA to develop creative new approaches to providing services through their one-stop systems. In particular, a group of 14 one-stops, identified as exemplary by government officials and workforce development experts, developed promising strategies in several key areas. To streamline services for job seekers, they ensured that job seekers could readily access needed services, made sure that staff were knowledgeable about all of the one-stop services available, or consolidated case management and intake procedures. To engage and serve employers, the centers dedicated specialized staff to work with employers or industries, tailored services to meet specific employers' needs, or worked with employers through intermediaries. To build a solid one-stop infrastructure, the centers found innovative ways to develop and strengthen program partnerships and to raise additional funds beyond those provided under WIA. Our work on WIA implementation over the past 3 years has identified a number of issues that should be considered during WIA reauthorization. First, the performance measurement system is flawed--the need to meet certain performance measures may be causing one-stops to deny services to some clients who may most need them; there is no measure that assesses overall one-stop performance; and the outcome data are outdated by the time they are available and are not useful in day-to-day program management. Second, funding issues continue to plague officials. The funding formula used to allocate funds to states and local areas does not reflect current program design and often causes unwarranted fluctuations in funding levels from year to year. In addition, WIA provided no separate funding source to support one-stop infrastructure, and developing equitable cost sharing agreements has not always been successful. Third, many training providers consider the current process for certifying their eligibility to be overly burdensome, resulting in reduced training options for job seekers as providers have declined to serve WIA-funded clients. Finally, state officials have told us that they need more help from Labor in the form of clearer guidance and greater opportunities to share promising practices in managing and providing services through their one-stop centers.