The signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law last month was a major triumph for those of us in the workforce development field. The bipartisan bill will push more accountability and connectivity of regional workforce resources across our nation. Yet, for far too long, many of our nation’s nearly 500 local workforce investment boards (WIBs) view themselves merely as program operators rather than drivers of change.
America’s promise of allowing every citizen the opportunity to succeed is falling short for millions of individuals stuck in low-wage jobs or frozen out of the job market due to a lack of relevant skills. The path to a middle-class lifestyle is no longer guaranteed, even for those who pursue post-secondary education. Now, more than ever, America’s long-term success depends on WIBs. Employers have a choice of where they want to create jobs and it’s up to workforce leaders to ensure the numbers add up so that these new jobs are created in America.
This means WIBs need to start to see themselves as the leaders in
- providing regional workforce intelligence,
- creating innovative regional partnerships to leverage scarce resources and
- ensuring our children not only have the relevant occupational skills to succeed but also the interest in tomorrow’s careers.
Yet no amount of legal reform can mandate WIBs to be more creative. As Charlotte Works embarks on the process of creating a new strategic plan, we must push innovation into every aspect of serving clients, from the way we use technology to the way we advocate for workforce issues.
But true success can only come from fully engaging our largest partners: employers. Although Charlotte Works assisted more than 800 employers last year, we need to do more to ensure that industry-recognized credentials are regionally adopted, available via local training providers and that expanding sectors offer work experience opportunities to youth and those going through career transitions.
By working in partnership with business, WIBs can provide the leadership needed to ensure the American job-creation engine works for all citizens.