Recovery Act Funding Priorities

Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board, Lancaster, PA

stimulus2In response to the funding that is being made available to local workforce investment areas through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board puts forward this document which is the framework of its plan for funding priorities. The enactment of the ARRA will nearly double the amount of workforce funds available in our workforce investment area.

As a result, we will be able to serve many more adults, especially customers who are collecting public assistance; many more dislocated workers, including a greater number of unemployment compensation (UC) claimants; and many more youth, especially during the summer months. We believe that strategically we must maximize the efforts on behalf of our fellow citizens to provide them with training and placement services that will get them back to work as quickly as jobs become available. By dramatically increasing the number of customers we serve, we will help to stimulate the economy. At the same time, we have the opportunity to build out our existing system to increase the depth and breadth of what we do. Any plan must keep both priorities in mind.

Over the next three months, we expect to be able to be much more specific about the number of people that we plan to serve in each of our service categories. We anticipate a significant public relations push in that time frame which should allow us to have a better sense of how people will use the expanded and new services that we outline below. Our new schedule of all programming will kick off in early May 2009.

Increasing the Capacity of What We Already Do

Over the last three years, we have successfully added workforce readiness as a priority for service delivery in the PA CareerLink of Lancaster County, now an equal companion to our traditional priority of labor exchange. Our emphasis on workforce readiness is closely tied to our Industry Partnerships. Much of the content of this training has been designed with the help of our Industry Partnerships and provides a direct link into the needs of the employers for skilled talent. One company foundation supports a specific training to the tune of $40,000 annually.

  • Our Ready2Work program provides assessment, knowledge enrichment, and skill enhancement with a Career Readiness Credential based on WorkKeys as one of the major outcomes of the process.
  • Additional skill-oriented career programs in pre-allied health preparation, customer service, introduction to manufacturing, HOT (hands-on training) lab in mechanical maintenance, Construction 101, Printing 101, introduction to industrial food sanitation, welding, and Microsoft Unlimited Potential allows the individual to add other skill-oriented credentials to their portfolio.
  • Upon completion of these activities (and sometimes during the learning process), individuals participate in the many activities in the PA CareerLink related to placement including resume writing, job interview preparation, and a very active and robust Job Club which has a full-time job search capability.
  • For some, connection to further training through the Individual Training Account (ITA) option is another possibility. However, many of the offerings on the ITA system are limited and take too long to complete for an individual who wants to get back to work quickly.

Our Youth programming has a strong career education component that will dovetail nicely with the summer work experiences that are required by the Act. A connection to our current out-of-school youth programs and the training offerings described above already exists and would be easy to expand.

We propose to do more of what we already do using a number of funding streams...

  • Double the capacity of the Ready2Work program by expanding the program as offered in the PA CareerLink as well as offered in community and faith-based organizations around the region. Our recent experience with the Spanish-American Civic Association and Neighborhood Services has proven that this is doable.
  • Increase the number of short-term skill training offerings and offer them to dislocated workers while continuing to serve the welfare-to-work, ex-offender, and out-of-school prospective workers that the programming has served to date. We'd like to add fork lift driver training to the mix as well as connections to a new level of training that will last up to 6-12 months in administrative support, computer hardware technician, laboratory skills, building maintenance, welding, environmental remediation, and sales.
  • Increase the number of Unemployment Compensation (UC) claimants served through the Profile Re-Employment Program (PREP) with the goal of offering reemployment services to all UC claimants. This will help stimulate the economy and potentially reduce the cost of UC for employers.
  • Double the capacity of the Job Club and placement activities currently offered in the PA CareerLink. We are currently over capacity and will need to grow in this area going forward. We are exploring ways to make our job search capacity more effective and efficient without sacrificing quality.
  • Significantly increase the number of ITAs. More on this strategy below.
  • Expand and reinvigorate the activities of the Business Services Team. Now is the time to work with employers on their anticipated needs when business activity rebounds. We will need to expand our BST and focus on expanding our relationships with business beyond our Industry Partnership and Ready2Work employer base. By promoting the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program to employers, we will encourage them to hire the job seekers we serve, while helping employers to save money and create jobs.

Add Some New Components to More Fully Develop the System

As we plan our response to the ARRA funding, we recognize that there are gaps to be filled which will make the system more responsive.

Add more medium-term (3-12 months) courses to the ITA list. These courses need to be offered at times beyond weekdays during the day. They need to have multiple starts during the year and be offered to the public as established courses. Some need to be offered in Spanish. We are interested in programming that addresses skills related to occupations on the High Priority Occupation list that have not previously been addressed including administrative support, computer hardware technician, laboratory skills, building maintenance, environmental remediation, and sales. We want all of the courses to be included on the ITA list so that providers accept their responsibility for outcomes. We also think that adding them to the ITA list will give us some hope of sustainability for the training.

We have already solicited concept papers from public education and training providers, encouraging them to work together to provide the training and articulate it to academic certificates and degrees. The response has been good but we may need to go further to find the vendors that will meet our requirement. We expect to have some of the training operational by May 1, 2009.

New summer youth programming will fit very well into our existing infrastructure for young people. We see three opportunities...

  • Build onto our existing Career Camps a work experience for 14-15 year olds;
  • Reach out to the young people already enrolled in our out-of-school youth program aged 18-24 and provide them with a six week work experience with the possibility of additional unsubsidized work at the end of the summer.
  • Reach out to a new group of low-income youth in two cohorts...one ages 16-17 and another ages 18-24...for a six-week work experience beginning in the middle of the summer which would follow six weeks of Ready2Work and pre-employment programs in the late spring and early summer.

We have already met with prospective worksites in governmental, community-based, and non-profit organizations and have a process outlined for identifying work opportunities. We have added the possibility of a work experience to our recruiting message for Career Camps and have a plan for getting the word out to families. The Superintendent of the School District of Lancaster as well as the Mayor and the Chamber President have been briefed and are willing to help spread the word through their offices. We expect to begin the first group (currently enrolled out-of-school youth) around May 1, 2009.

  • With the anticipated length of this recession, we plan to develop an alternative for people who have completed training and are ready for a service/learning experience as a volunteer in the community while they continue to work on finding a job. We have already reached out to the United Way of Lancaster County to explore ways to use the existing volunteer network to accomplish this goal.

Guiding Principles

Moving forward, we have certain basic principles that are compatible with the ARRA and which will guide our service delivery strategy...

  • We intend to use more than 75% of the adult and dislocated worker funding for training and to spend more than 75% of the youth funding in the first summer;
  • Wherever possible, we will use systems that are already in place. We intend to keep our overhead low and not incur fixed costs. We plan to competitively bid wherever possible. We are looking for vendors that follow the rules and produce the outcomes we desire. We have already contacted qualified customers that may be interested and discussed with them the process for accessing the new services.
  • We intend to be the employment business service of choice for employers in Lancaster County, serving the hiring needs of industries such as health care that continue to hire larger number of people while at the same time serving the more modest needs of small and medium-size businesses as well.
  • We plan to apply for competitive grants from state, federal, and philanthropic sources if they fit the priorities established in this plan.
  • We intend to be totally transparent in what we do. We expect to have a section of our website...www.lancastercountywib.com...devoted to the planning for and use of ARRA funding. We expect to file all reports in a timely way.
  • We will explore and use new ways to get the word out about programming to every resident of Lancaster County. We intend to have a public meeting as soon as possible to brief the community. We are also planning a "Here to Help" session before the end of May 2009.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for the workforce system to show what it can do as the country struggles to emerge from its devastating economic circumstances. We are ready to do our part.

Scott Sheely
Executive Director
March 26, 2009