As unemployment officially hits 8.5 percent across the country - with higher numbers in many states - the nation's workforce development system is more important than ever. Our 1,600+ One-Stop Career Centers are serving more people than ever - 15 million people per year and rising.
How can we improve the services they provide and help people get back to work sooner?
Economist Louis S. Jacobson of the nonprofit research firm CNA says we can improve the One-Stops by doing two things:
- Improve accountability systems so that core services aren't undervalued, and
- Double funding for the One-Stops from $4 billion to $8 billion annually.
He calculates that the return on investment for these two changes would be $3.90 in benefits for every $1 spent. Sounds like a good deal to me.
There's lots of good info in there. For example, here are some startling stats:
Jacobson argues that some of the greatest benefits would come from increasing core services such as job search assistance and job development, then tracking outcomes from those efforts. Under Workforce Investment Act rules, most One-Stops only track outcomes for clients receiving intensive services, not those receiving core services. Jacobson thinks this is a mistake.
He also argues that training programs could be improved by providing more counseling for clients to ensure that they're placed in the right training programs. Too many people are shuffled into training programs without adequate screening, preparation or support.
This reminds me of an interview with a doctor I heard recently who said that he is most effective when he takes the time to sit with patients and listen to them, explain things to them, then plan a course of treatment that best meets their needs. But he is reimbursed more for running expensive tests. Perverse incentives, indeed.
All the activities Jacobson recommends would require more staff time, but he crunches the numbers to show how those investments would pay off, both for taxpayers and for job seekers. What's more, they would allow the One-Stops to serve an additional 5.6 million Americans each year.
What do you think? Would these changes help your One-Stop provide better services? Do you have other ideas for improving the One-Stops?