"Community colleges are the backbone of the public workforce system."
Those are the words of Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Labor and head of the Employment and Training Administration in the keynote address at the "Preparing the Global Workforce" Symposium. The discussion kicked off a week of events celebrating the inauguration of HarperCollege's new president, Dr. Kenneth Ender with a challenge to community colleges that "aren't preparing enough people to fill" the middle class jobs of the 21st century. Are federal policies adequate to help community colleges prepare "not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs five years from now and 10 years from now and 50 years from now," as President Obama asked recently (Fischer)? In this paper I will provide a history of federal workforce policies culminating in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. Then I will explain the structure and processes of the Local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) charged with administering WIA programs and discuss how they vary across the country. The paper will then look at the results of a number of studies examining a range of topics related to the effectiveness of WIA, including outcomes of training programs, and the relationships between WIBs, state governments and Community Colleges. I will then discuss the implications of those findings on determining a new course for federal workforce policy as relates to community colleges and make predictions about the success of the Obama Administration's current proposals in the American Graduation Initiative designed to dramatically increase the number of Americans with college degrees.
Though the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 established the first national employment service, the federal government got involved with workforce development in earnest in 1935 whenRooseveltestablished the Works Progress Administration (WPA) by executive order (Couch). In 1939 it became the Federal Works agency and was funded with an initial congressional appropriation of $4,880,000,000, an enormous sum even in today's dollars. The WPA provided jobs for the unemployed "on an unprecedented scale by spending money on a wide variety of programs, including highways and building construction, slum clearance, reforestation, and rural rehabilitation (Couch)." Such a huge enterprise was "inevitably attended by confusion, waste, and political favoritism, yet the ‘pump-priming’ effect stimulated private business during the depression years and inaugurated reforms that states had been unable to subsidize (Couch)." By 1941 WPA had evolved to primarily a worker training program, and dissolved as unemployment shrank to around 1% at the onset of World War II.
When the Economic Opportunity and Higher Education Acts were passed in 1964 as a centerpiece of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty the modern relationship between training and employment began to take shape. The former Act, with its Job Corps for youth training and employment and basic adult education features, and the latter with an emphasis on providing low-income students access to higher education worked to tackle the roots of unemployment and poverty: lack of training or education (Garson, Gladieux). By the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 1972 Congress "viewed student aid as a way to harness market forces for enhancing the quality of higher educationâ€¦and believed that students, voting with their feet, would take their federal aid to institutions that met their needs; less satisfactory institutions would wither (Gladieux)." It is in this legislation that Congress changed the language from "post-secondary" to "higher education" with the intent "to break the stereotype that education beyond high school meant full-time attendance in a four-year academic program leading to a baccalaureate degree (Gladieux)." As a reflection of that shift amendments in the 1972 reauthorization "extended greater federal recognition and support to career and vocational education, community colleges, and trade schools as well as to students in part-time programs (Gladieux)."
The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) of 1973 was "the culmination of the process of 'manpower reform' begun in 1969" after Nixon took office (DOL Annals). CETA replaced the existing patchwork of federal employment and training programs with a form of revenue-sharing where "funds and decision-making authority were transferred closer to local elected officialsâ€¦mostly states, counties and cities, received funds and were commissioned to plan employment and training services for their local area (DOL Annals)." It is here that our current system of administering workforce training programs locally began.
When Jimmy Carter took office in 1977 the nation was facing an oil crisis and economic recession. Carter's response was an economic stimulus program that included $8 billion for CETA's Public Service Employment program, resulting in a boom in public sector employment from 310,000 in 1976 to a peak of 725,000 in 1978 (DOL Annals, Chapter 8). The 1978 CETA reauthorization "was driven by two concerns: the need to make employment and training more effective through greater involvement of the private sector; and, the concern that CETA resources were not targeted on those most in need (DOL Annals, Chapter 8). A significant new aspect of CETA was the Private Sector Initiatives Program (PSIP) which complemented the public employment program and had as its purpose redirecting CETA "toward placing the unemployed in jobs in the private sector (DOL Annals, Chapter 8)." To do this, PSIP looked to enhance the participation of private employers in CETA programs. This resulted in the formation of Private Industry Councils (PICs) where business executives, labor leaders and others met in official capacities to work with CETA prime sponsors in the state and local areas. At this point the local public and private collaboration that is central to our modern workforce development system is underway.
After greatly reducing public sector employment and slashing CETA's budget from $8 billion to less than $4 billion, Ronald Reagan pushed the Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA) which "established a partnership between business, labor and government at all levels to deliver the maximum amount of training per dollar spent (DOL Annals, Chapter 9)." The JTPA legislation "relating to the training and placement of welfare recipients, federal funding of vocational education and programs for dislocated workers" invested the PICs that had been established by Carter with additional oversight responsibilities (NAWB). Many responsibilities that were "formerly carried out by the federal government were transferred to state and local governments (DOL Annals, Chapter 9)."
In 1998, Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), "requiring states and localities to bring together federally funded employment and training programs into a comprehensive workforce investment system, called the One Stop system (GAO)."
The new system replaced PICs with local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) charged with administering each local One Stop (NAWB). WIA covers a range of programs and efforts relating to employment and services for youth, disabled, veterans, dislocated workers, Native Americans, migrant workers and more. After a brief discussion about how WIA funding flows, this paper will deal with just those aspects of the Act that address administration of One Stop centers by WIBs, the makeup of those boards and collaboration between them and community colleges.
The Workforce Investment Act consists of three funding streams - totaling about $3.7 billion in 2007: Adult, Youth and Dislocated Worker. Of all the federal appropriations for WIA, the Department of Labor keeps 20% of funding from the Dislocated Worker stream to be "used by the Secretary for National Emergency grants, demonstration grants, and technical assistance (Working forAmerica)." The remainder of the Dislocated Worker funds and all of the Adult and Youth streams are then allotted to the states by formula. Governors retain 15% of state allocations of all three funding streams to be used for administering the programs at the state level. Further, 25% of the state allocation is held by the state for Rapid Response activities, which "is the money that funds many labor programs (Working forAmerica)." The rest of the funds are apportioned out to local areas of the state by a formula that "can take into account various poverty measures such as unemployment, number of people below poverty, and so on (Working forAmerica)."
WIA covers a range of programs and efforts relating to employment and services for youth, disabled, veterans, dislocated workers, Native Americans, migrant workers and more. After a brief discussion about how WIA funding flows, this paper will deal with just those aspects of the Act that address administration of One Stop centers by WIBs, the makeup of those boards and collaboration between them and community colleges.
The Workforce Investment Act consists of three funding streams - totaling about $3.7 billion in 2007: Adult, Youth and Dislocated Worker. Of all the federal appropriations for WIA, the Department of Labor keeps 20% of funding from the Dislocated Worker stream to be "used by the Secretary for National Emergency grants, demonstration grants, and technical assistance (Working forAmerica)." The remainder of the Dislocated Worker funds and all of the Adult and Youth streams are then allotted to the states by formula. Governors retain 15% of state allocations of all three funding streams to be used for administering the programs at the state level. Further, 25% of the state allocation is held by the state for Rapid Response activities, which "is the money that funds many labor programs (Working forAmerica)." The rest of the funds are apportioned out to local areas of the state by a formula that "can take into account various poverty measures such as unemployment, number of people below poverty, and so on (Working forAmerica)." It is the coordination between these local WIBs and community colleges where I will now focus my attention.
In May of 2008 the Government Accountability Office, starting from the perspective that "community colleges are key providers of career and technical training as well as traditional academic education" and thus "play important roles in the one-stop system" set out to examine: "how community colleges meet the workforce training needs of their communities; what community colleges do to integrate with the nation's one-stop system; the conditions or practices that enhance or impede these efforts; and the actions the Departments of Labor and Education have taken to encourage linkages between community colleges and the workforce investment system, including one-stops (GAO)." Toward that end they visited community colleges, surveyed One Stop centers and their affiliated WIBs and interviewed local Department of Labor or Education leaders.
The community colleges that GAO visited developed various approaches and programs for career and technical training to meet the needs of industry sectors, individual employers, and certain types of students and workers. Through a variety of outreach, relationship building, and data collection efforts, community colleges have come to understand the specific training needs of key industries in their regions and use this information to keep programs current or develop new programs to address these needs. Community college activities include providing contract or customized training to the employees of specific employers; working with small businesses; and targeting training and education programs to specific populations, such as disadvantaged adults, high-school students transitioning to college, and one-stop clients.
Many of the community colleges that GAO visited integrate with their one-stops by operating the one-stop centers, co-locating college staff at the one-stop, and participating on workforce investment boards. Nationwide, GAO estimated that about 11 percent of one-stops are operated solely or jointly by a community college, while 34 percent have community college staff co-located at the center. Similarly, GAO estimated that, nationwide, 49 percent of local workforce investment boards have community college presidents represented on their boards. Some of the benefits of these arrangements include cost sharing and improved communication among participating programs. Officials at the colleges and one-stops that GAO visited reported also conducting other joint activities, such as strategic planning and data sharing.
The community college sector's current track record on student success leaves much to be desired. And this breeds natural skepticism about whether devoting more money and effort to the system is worthwhile, even if one acknowledges the evidence linking resource levels and performance.