With shrinking federal dollars for America's Job Centers, state and local workforce providers will need to embrace new technologies while expanding one-on-one services to job seekers who seek career advancement and training opportunities. Wisconsin can make this transition with collaboration and thoughtful planning.
The Department of Workforce Development's online program offerings are increasing in popularity, and more job hunters are accessing programs and information via our social media channels (shameless plug —check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram!).
In response to those growing trends, DWD has formed the Workforce System Transformation Taskforce, which will evaluate how to most efficiently and effectively manage our modest federal funding, while also providing much needed employment and training services to more people in more communities.
In short, we plan to invest our remaining federal funding to deliver more services through multiple mediums, instead of expensive fixed overhead costs. Moving forward, we will place greater emphasis on bringing services to the people, instead of waiting for people to come to us.
This new vision for our workforce delivery system is a natural response to a more connected, increasingly online society. We have seen great success with community-based events and office hours, as well as actively partnering with businesses through our business services specialists.
Job centers will continue to be an integral part of our service delivery platform, but an honest look at our service delivery strategy is needed to ensure that we are reaching as many individuals as possible and providing effective support to Wisconsin workers, businesses and communities.
As our talented job service staff decentralize, we will have a greater presence in rural areas of our state that do not have a walk-in job center. By investing in mobile job centers and increased remote job services, individuals lacking transportation and/or access to a physical job center (which can be up to 50 miles away) will have greater access to the programs offered by DWD.
With the state's unemployment rate hovering near 3%, our workforce service delivery methods and how we reach people are necessarily evolving. At this point in the economic cycle, individuals who remain out of the labor force are likely to have at least one barrier that prevents them from becoming or staying employed.
Whether it is accessing affordable child care, reliable transportation, overcoming a disability or working through different stages of our correctional system, our ability to reach people where they're at and help them on the path to a full-time job that pays a living wage is of paramount importance to Wisconsin's long-term economic health.
By diversifying the methods and locations with which we provide services, we will have a greater economic impact on more individuals in more communities throughout the state.
I look forward to working with the members of the Workforce System Transformation Taskforce over the coming months as they engage the public through a number of community focus groups planned throughout the state and, ultimately, working with the taskforce to make impactful changes benefitting Wisconsin job seekers and employers.
Caleb Frostman is secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.