For all Americans, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the economy, altering the way we work and the types of skills employers will seek as they continue to hire. Workers across some industries will need reskilling, retraining and, in some cases, may need to return to school for further education. This seismic shift will require employers and employees to creatively utilize and leverage the world’s most talented workforce: the American workforce.
Since the passage of the Wagner-Peyser Act in 1933, the federal government has committed to invest in the betterment of America’s workforce through a wide array of employment service programs. Today, American Job Centers (AJCs) across the country serve as virtual or in-person one-stop shops for jobseekers seeking assistance and employers looking to hire. In addition to changing the future of work, the coronavirus will also force the workforce system to adapt to how and where it delivers services.
However, the mere existence of a workforce program does not guarantee success for the job seeker. Ensuring that coordinated services are effectively matched to the customer’s specific needs will be as important as ever as demand for services increases. Tied together, the vision of collaboration, cooperation and, ultimately, seamless connection across the spectrum of workforce development services offered at the federal, state and local levels will be paramount as the reopening of America continues — we call this One Workforce. Too often, job training services are siloed, disjointed and do not work together in an efficient and coordinated manner, and partners are often too quick “to claim” a customer as theirs and only provide services from their program. However, rarely is one program or service ever sufficient to meet the varying needs a worker who has recently lost his or her job may require.
Recently, the Department of Labor, where I serve as the assistant secretary for Employment and Training, published two new regulations that will allow for greater cross-administration of programs by AJC staff so that they are able to serve the customer more effectively. These regulations follow President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpQuestions remain unanswered as White House casts upbeat outlook on Trump’s COVID-19 fight White House staffers get email saying to stay home if they experience coronavirus symptoms White House says ‘appropriate precautions’ were taken for Trump’s outing to see supporters MORE’s action in May 2018 to promote accountability and streamlining merit system principles to ensure that Federal employees “maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest, and that the federal workforce should be used efficiently and effectively.” With these rules in place, states can now provide services through one cross-trained set of case managers. This team will be able to better serve customers across programs.
Beyond implementing a One Workforce strategy, state and local workforce boards also must be responsive to employers’ and customers’ needs by providing more virtual, online and off-site services. Further, while these resources will prove invaluable for many Americans, it is also important that federal and state programs provide quality services that are customized and targeted to match the needs of local employers with the skills of each customer. The Department of Labor is working with state and local workforce development boards and partners to ensure every customer is provided the services they need to find a job, a better job and ultimately a career. Currently, there are specific workforce development programs available for adults, youth, dislocated workers, persons with disabilities, trade-impacted workers, Native Americans, justice-involved individuals and veterans, to name a few.
The administration is also working to provide greater transparency and accountability to allow customers to make more informed decisions about which training providers provide in-demand skills that match the customer’s skills. By the end of the year, customers will be able to compare and contrast local training providers by cost, location and outcomes. This transparency will allow workers to find quality job training while ensuring accountability.
Now, more than ever, the idea that every employment services program must come together to serve one workforce rings true. COVID-19 has presented us with many challenges. To meet them, we must rethink how we put America back to work. For the Department of Labor, that means fostering a One Workforce strategy.
The department is committed to helping reopen America for business. The economic engine will come roaring back to life and, in fact, it is already showing signs of rapid recovery, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting millions jobs created in the past four months alone.
The strength, tenacity and ingenuity of America’s workers can lead to only one outcome — growth and prosperity in the months and years ahead. Helping make that prosperity a reality for American workers and their families is a top priority of the Trump administration. In the days ahead, as America goes back to work, there is little doubt that, as a nation, we will rise to the occasion.
John Pallasch, is the assistant secretary for Employment and Training the U.S. Department of Labor.