The Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Role of Career One-Stops
The Department of Labor has consistently emphasized the importance of the partnership between the YouthBuild program and One-Stop Career Centers, also known as American Job Centers. Language has been included in YouthBuild Funding Opportunity Announcements, and an array of promising practices and recommendations have been shared by One-Stop staff as well as YouthBuild program staff via national and regional conferences and the monthly DOL YouthBuild Webinar Series. More recently, One-Stop partnerships have been emphasized in the WIOA regulations, including the requirement of YouthBuild to be a mandatory One-Stop partner (See TEGL 04-15 for more information on the WIOA vision of the One-Stop system). Last month, the Employment and Training Administration hosted a webinar on WIOA One-Stop Infrastructure Funding, which provided an overview of key concepts and terms, as well as information on the state and local funding mechanisms that determine the cost share of required partners.

As the Department shapes more guidance and technical assistance for successful YouthBuild implementation under WIOA, expect to see continued attention to this important aspect of WIOA. By requiring YouthBuild to be a required partner, WIOA is signaling the important role that One-Stops should play in ensuring successful placement outcomes for YouthBuild participants.  As part of the partnership process, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) must be developed that describes the roles of all One-Stop partners as well as the role of the One-Stop in supporting and collaborating with partners.  It is expected that this MOU will create more alignment and communication across the workforce system and more clearly outline how partners can work together.  

As a One-Stop delivery system partner, there are some initial steps that YouthBuild programs can take to ensure they are familiar with the offerings of their local One-Stop and services that can be beneficial to YouthBuild participants.  In this article, the Department of Labor highlights some of these steps for One-Stop partnerships, particularly as they relate to the increased focus on employer engagement and placement success, by drawing from its guide Partnering with Employers: Effective Practices for YouthBuild Programs The two steps described below can help to lay the foundation for One-Stop partnership success:
  • Sign up for e-newsletters and notices.
Most American Job Centers publish a monthly calendar of events including job fairs, on-site employer recruitments, workshops and industry briefings.
  • Get to know individuals handling WIOA eligibility.
As with employers, getting to know staff and introducing them to YouthBuild can help you engage American Job Centers and build a strong relationship. Once key people are identified, YouthBuild staff can better assist students in navigating the American Job Center.
  • Individuals handling WIOA eligibilityOnce you identify the person, be sure to have an introductory meeting with them. This person will be enormously helpful in providing students access to WIOA resources.
Programs can consider forging individual relationships with key staff, including:
  • Job Developers or Business Account Representatives. Because American Job Centers have varying job placement approaches, it is important to get to know these individuals and understand the process the local American Job Center follows. The Center may be able to support program employer engagement and/or placement efforts through provider-only sessions with employers, job fairs designed for job seekers, or via one-on-one job seeker career counseling and placement assistance. YouthBuild program staff should consider the aspects of program placement services that would be best complimented by One-Stop Center services, and build Center partnerships accordingly.
As you know, the work of supporting a young person in securing and retaining gainful employment post-YouthBuild begins even before recruitment. Crafting a solid job developer job description, hiring the right staff, and staffing at the right level (%FTE) all help shape placement success at your YouthBuild program. As important is your program’s ability to establish solid employer partnerships early on in the cohort cycle, before you are ready to actually seek hiring opportunities for specific youth. This summer, the YouthBuild program sought feedback from grantees to unearth placement practices among grantees, including staffing and hiring practices. Preliminary review of response data shows that, in addition to staffing the job development function in house, many YouthBuild grantees optimize their One-Stop partnership to support post-program placement, some through formal MOU-governed relationships. This varies from student participation in One-Stop career fairs to individualized student services.

As you consider the development or enhancement of your own One-Stop partnerships, consider including an assessment of One-Stop Center case management capacity, presence of youth case managers, and ability to address an array of student needs in your partnership planning. You may need to identify the right students to receive case management (thus a portion of students may ultimately receive One-Stop case management versus a full cohort). Referral-based case management may be more appropriate in your partnership than co-case management depending on the One-Stop Center’s capacity.  Additionally, use an individualized approach as you co-enroll youth and determine if it’s feasible to engage your One-Stop to co-enroll youth into the youth or adult formula systems, where they can take advantage of additional services, such as Individualized Training Accounts and other individualized services that layer over YouthBuild services to provide more intensive and directive training opportunities in specific career pathways. Take the time to structure the right parameters for the collaboration in order to develop a partnership that offers your young people the best of your local One-Stop Center’s services while complementing your YouthBuild program and make sure you are aware of ALL the services across WIOA funding streams that may benefit your participants.  Don’t be afraid to be creative and aim high when discussing the MOU parameters with your local One-Stop.