Local Workforce Investment Area Strategy

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Local Workforce Investment Area Strategy

Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board, Lancaster, PA

In response to the funding that is being made available to local workforce investment areas through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board puts forward this document which is the framework of its strategy for implementing programming funded by the Act. ARRA funding 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.

 

Guiding Principles

Moving forward, we have certain basic principles that are compatible with the intent and spirit of 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 job readiness (including Job Club) and training activities 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 held a “Train for the Future” Day on April 29 where almost 200 individuals had intakes to determine their eligibility for training as well as a “Here to Help” Day on May 6 where over 600 people met with PA CareerLink staff and nearly 80 community service providers to explore services that they might need in the future.

 

Response to the PA Department of Labor and Industry

In responding to the information requested by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, we have framed our response in the context of the Strategic Plan of the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board which continues to guide our service delivery strategy for all of our work. That Plan is Appendix A to this document. We have also slightly altered the order of the questions to provide more continuity in the narrative of our Plan. We have included the number of the question in parentheses at the end of the questions and put the question itself in bold print.

Provide an analysis of the LWIA's economy, the labor pool, and the labor market context (1).

Our previous analysis of the Lancaster County economy has been extensive. We have tracked the growth of 20 different industry clusters in a period from 1995-2009 with a more extensive analysis from 2001-2009. We have identified seven priority industries - health care, biotechnology, agriculture and food processing, metals and metal fabricating, construction, communications and printing, and automotive services - around which we have built some of the largest and longest-standing industry partnerships in the Commonwealth. Several of our partnerships have evolved into centers of excellence (long-term care practice, packaging operations, production agriculture, and renewable energy) that are sponsored by all of the economic development entities in the County.

Lancaster County has one of the most concentrated manufacturing workforces in the country. It is one of the top 20 agriculture producing counties in the country. It routinely has the lowest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth. The effect of the current recession has been broad with a strong negative focus in financial services, automotive services, construction, retail, transportation and logistics, and some manufacturing. Non-durable good manufacturing in food, printing, and biotechnology have continued to retain jobs as has the health care and agriculture sectors.

Our skill gaps tend to focus around technical skills and the underpinning science, technology, engineering, and math knowledge that support them. Many times, we specifically find math to be a barrier as people try to take the next steps in their career paths. We are trying to better engage the adult basic education folks in solutions that overcome these barriers.

As we have drilled down and analyzed the occupations and career paths that show the most promise for dislocated and reentering workers, we have broadened our data to not only include projections based on industry growth or decline but also on the need to replace older workers in these key industries. This has led to our Top 100 Hot Jobs List which has been used since Fall 2008 to provide information on long-term occupational growth in the region. See Appendix B.

By looking at this List, we determined early in the process of preparing for ARRA implementation that there were six occupational areas where there were inadequate training options for eligible participants in training. They include building maintenance technology, building energy technology, administrative support and information technology, sales, laboratory technology, and expert computer support technology. These occupations along with others including heavy equipment operator and forklift operator became the basis of our outreach to local education and training providers for new program offerings that could be added to our pre-employment offerings as well as our more traditional list of individual training account offerings.
All of these occupations continue to grow or have prospects to grow as the recovery progresses.

We continue to link the Program Managers of our industry partnerships with the Business Services Representatives of the PA CareerLink to shore up the relationship between the workforce system and the business community. We believe that these folks will be able to provide us with a great deal of "on-the-ground" intelligence which can help us pinpoint where and when the recover is taking hold. We expect to use the next year to restructure and improve the workings of our Business Services Team.

What strategies are in place to address the Governor's priorities, the LWIA's priorities, and the workforce development issues identified through the analysis of the LWIA's economy and labor market (5)?

In reviewing the mission, vision, and strategic goals of the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board, we believe that they are broad enough to encompass any and all circumstances that present themselves in the current economic situation. Our strategy for ARRA implementation builds on what already exists in our previous strategic planning.

Mission

Overall, the mission of the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board is to coordinate, develop, and maintain an effective and responsive system of programs and services that integrates the needs of employers for an ample and productive workforce with the needs of Lancaster County residents for meaningful work that enhances their quality of life.

Vision

We see a system that takes a leading and influencing role within what is really a network of systems. We envision a workforce that is adequate in numbers and equipped with a work ethic, foundational academic skills, and specific occupational skills that fit the needs of local employers and that rival those of other areas with which we are in competition. We see a diverse workforce and prospective workforce with equal access to educational resources and a diverse job market where there is equal opportunity for all workers and prospective workers.

In addition, we see an environment where individuals find success and satisfaction in their careers and in the financial rewards that flow from them. We envision a system that is responsive to workforce needs as they emerge with the power and influence to make change happen. Ultimately, this overall process keeps the Lancaster County economy strong by encouraging established businesses to grow and prospective businesses to consider Lancaster County as a venue for their enterprises.

Strategic Goals

Our strategic goals flow from our sense of the economy, the workforce, and the community as we see them evolving over the years to come...

  • Build and maintain a workforce that is adequate in numbers to meet the emerging needs of current and prospective Lancaster County businesses;
  • Develop and maintain a workforce that is equipped with a work ethic, foundational academic skills, and specific occupational skills that fit the emerging needs of local employers and that rival those of other areas with which we are in competition;
  • Assure equal access of all Lancaster County residents to education and employment;
  • Assist all Lancaster County residents in finding success and satisfaction in their careers.
  • Develop and maintain an effective and efficient workforce system that uses the power and influence of the WIB to attract partners, build alliances, and coordinate resources.

We have invested almost a decade in attracting partners, building alliances, and coordinating resources in Lancaster County. We have 16 active partners in the PA CareerLink of Lancaster County. Our workforce readiness program is offered in five community-based organizations as well as the PA CareerLink. We run 11 traditional and non-traditional industry partnerships; some are local while others are more regional. We run four Centers of Excellence sponsored by Lancaster Prospers, our local economic development collaborative, as well as doing all of the research and data analysis for the group. We work with all 16 school districts and most of the youth-serving organizations in the County through our Youth Council. We are a founding member of the Lancaster County ReEntry Management Organization which our Executive Director currently chairs. We sponsored an extensive research project on the dynamics of the Latino community in Lancaster County and are now staffing the Latino Coordinating Committee that grew out of it.

There is no need to build a new system because the network of relationships that will be required to move the ARRA programming forward has already been developed. We now need to use these relationships to reach out to more people than we ever have done in every corner of the community. In the course of doing this, we feel confident that our broad and well-established network will allow us to address the "dual-customer" mission of ARRA.

Identify the LWIA's key workforce investment system priorities and how each will lead to actualizing the LWIA's vision for workforce and economic development (4).

Describe innovative service delivery strategies the LWIA has or is planning to undertake to maximize resources, increase service levels, improve service quality, achieve better integration or meet other key LWIA goals (6).

Essentially, we see our ARRA priorities coming out of these basic principles and focusing on two essential strategies...increasing the capacity of what we already do and adding some new components to more fully develop the system

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 $20,000 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. Because PREP customers report to the PA CareerLink, there is a direct and on-site feed into the Ready2Work, job readiness, and skill training options available to UI recipients This will help stimulate the economy and potentially reduce the cost of UC for employers.
  • Double the capacity of the job readiness and placement activities currently offered in the PA CareerLink. We have recently increased capacity for our job readiness program in response to the customer demand for services. We are exploring ways to make this activity 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. A total of 26 new offerings have been developed and will be operational by June.

  • 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 18-21 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 identified almost 350 work opportunities at 35 different employers. 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 have already helped spread the word through their offices. We expect to begin the first group (currently enrolled out-of-school youth) around June 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.

What is the LWIA's vision for ensuring a continuum of education and training opportunities that support a skilled workforce (2)?

Building a continuum of education and training opportunities is essential to the work that we need to do over the next year or so.

In the planning and implementation that has already happened, we have used several important assumptions as foundational. Short-term, skill oriented training that is designed by industry and which involves a non-credit certificate that could be brokered into a longer-term academic credential is just as important as more traditional educational or apprenticeship opportunities. In fact, employers like it. We think that a person with a stack of short-term, skill-oriented credentials in their portfolio become very employable very quickly. This thinking is at the heart of the service delivery system that we describe above.

Our goal is to put people back to work first and then to work on their skill and educational attainment as the next priority. This means that we have pushed for new training options that take three weeks, three months, or six months to complete as folks work on their job search activities. This is again reflected in what we describe earlier in this document.

It is also clear to us that there are still not enough content options to address the needs of employers for skilled workers. We need to encourage more curriculum development in fields that are new or that have not been addressed before. We have been actively involved in designing, evaluating, and implementing this curriculum through projects with Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, the Smart Energy Initiative, and other groups. We must push our partners to fill the gaps that exist by working together as providers to grow pipelines and career paths.

Finally, all of this new programming must fit into our existing system so that it continues beyond our stimulus work. We have encouraged all of our education and training providers to put the new courses that they are developing on the Eligible Provider List so that they make a long-term commitment to offering the course and take responsibility for the success of graduates as they move back into the workforce.

Describe the LWIA's strategies to ensure that the full range of employment and training programs and services delivered through the LWIA's PA CareerLink delivery system are accessible to and will meet the needs of dislocated workers, displaced homemakers, low-income individuals, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, women, minorities, individuals training for nontraditional employment, veterans, public assistance recipients, and individuals with multiple barriers to employment (including older individuals, limited English proficiency individuals, and people with disabilities) (10).

Over the years, we have built out our service delivery system in a way that all people regardless of how they enter the system essentially engage in the same tasks...assessment, career counseling, a review of job skills, foundation skill remediation as needed, and a final assessment followed by movement into training and/or job search activities. Our Title II and welfare programs provide some additional remediation services. We help people obtain their identification so that they address that barrier when they go out to work.

Case management is the responsibility of the referring entity or the PA CareerLink program in which the individual participated. However, dislocated workers, welfare trainees, ex-offenders, homeless individuals, veterans, people with disabilities, limited English speakers, older workers, and many others essentially use the same system. Folks participating in the welfare training programs are well integrated into the operations of the PA CareerLink.

Again, with our system being very well-developed, we anticipate no problems in addressing the ARRA priority of service for low-income individuals and recipients of public assistance under WIA.

Three very specific examples of our outreach to persons who have many times been on the margins of the workforce include our outreach to the Latino community, to ex-offenders, and to persons living in homeless shelters. A partnership with the Spanish-American Civic Association over the last two years has produced Plaza Comunitaria Educativa, a community-based project which takes the PA CareerLink Ready2Work program into the community where more specific English language training can be added for a more work-ready individual. The PA CareerLink is a member of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization and is participating in its service delivery demonstration project, providing assistance in obtaining personal identification as well as Ready2Work, pre-employment, and job search services. Finally, the outreach to area homeless shelters has led to a partnership where shelter residents have been successfully integrated into PA CareerLink programming with the active cooperation of shelter case managers and PA CareerLink service delivery staff. We know how to do community involvement and plan to keep it going as the next year unfolds.

What policies and strategies does the LWIA have in place to ensure that, pursuant to the Jobs for Veterans Act (P.L. 107-288) (38 USC 4215), priority of service is provided to veterans (and certain spouses) who otherwise meet the eligibility requirements for all employment and training programs funded by the Department of Labor (9)?

As a result of intentional outreach to veteran service organizations and to people as they access the PA CareerLink for services, we expect to receive more referrals from our BWDP Veteran Representative partner as this law is more widely advertised to the spouses and as veterans return from active duty. Currently, WIA staff people serve veterans and their spouses. With the passage of the ARRA, we have been in the process of developing a priority of service strategy which we expect to have the Executive Committee endorse at its July meeting. This policy will then be distributed to staff and posted for the public immediately following its passage.

Describe the LWIB's vision for increasing training access and opportunities for individuals including the investment of WIA Title I funds and the leveraging of other funds and resources (7).

Our general strategy of doing more of what we already do has allowed us and will allow us to use broad appeal publicity strategies to attract people to regular and extraordinary orientations for people so that their eligibility can be established. The wide range of training dollars that is available allows us to customize a package that fits the needs of most people. We have Industry Partnership, CAA, TAA, ARRA, WIA and Welfare money that can be brought into play depending on the circumstances of the individuals. We plan to use all funds concurrently so that we avoid the problem of supplanting existing resources.

To date, we have done a Train for the Future Day where we did nearly 200 intakes for individuals that expressed an interest in further training. Our community partners were extremely helpful in getting the word into the community supplemented by some additional print and radio advertising. We do several orientations weekly to identify more individuals and plan to continue doing them over the next year. We have hired temporary workers to assist in the work that is involved in processing and determining eligibility. We are dramatically increasing the number of folks called in for PREP and, in the process, encouraging people on unemployment to get involved in training before their unemployment runs out.

What is the LWIA's vision for ensuring that every youth has the opportunity for developing and achieving career goals through education and workforce training, including the young people most in need of assistance, such as out-of-school youth, homeless youth, youth in foster care, youth aging out of foster care, youth offenders, children of incarcerated parents, migrant and seasonal farmworker youth, youth with disabilities, and other youth at risk (3)?

Earlier in this narrative, we talked about the connection of all of our ARRA implementation strategies to the strategic planning that the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board has had in place for years. The expansion of our network of youth-serving individuals and organizations through the recent RCEP and PAYT initiatives has helped us connect with virtually every category of at risk young person. We believe that ARRA programming fits well into this strategic framework and network of existing partners that we have already established.

Describe the LWIA's strategy for providing comprehensive, integrated services to eligible youth, including those most in need (8).

We talked about our program intentions above. Our plan addresses younger, youth currently enrolled in WIA programs, and older youth that are already participating in our pre-employment programming. We have recruited nearly 350 placements for student workers, primarily in non-profit and governmental entities. We expect to place around 350 young people in summer work experiences and use most of the funding in the first summer. We have designed our own basic workforce readiness assessment tool which will be used at the beginning and end of the program. See Appendix C.

Wherever possible, we have connected the summer work experience with a training experience. Younger students will attend a career camp before a one-week work situation. Older students will participate in Ready2Work and pre-employment training before participating in a work experience where they can practice their new-found skills in a real world setting. Placements have been chosen on the basis of the willingness of the organization to work with skill development while having the student contribute their labor to the needs of the organization.

Overall, we plan to place 30 young people ages 14-15 in the one week work situation; 60 youth ages 16-17 in a longer-term learning/work placement; and more than 300 folks aged 18-24 in a more directed work setting with the ultimate goal of unsubsidized employment or placement in an education program.

Describe the competitive and non-competitive processes that will be used at the local level to award grants and contracts for activities under Title I of WIA including how potential bidders are being made aware of the availability of grants and contracts (11).

Our procurement policies are well established and consistent (see Appendices D and E). Most of the funds will be spent on job readiness and skill training activities. We plan to use the approved ITA providers for skill training and the approved Title I Operator for job readiness activities including the Job Club program. The Lancaster Employment and Training Agency, the Title I operator, will handle the same activities as outlined in their agreement for formula funds including eligibility determination, case management, follow-up, tracking, and so on. Any additional awards made with these funds will follow the attached procurement policy

How will the LWIB ensure that ARRA funds will supplement, not supplant, existing resources (12)?

To assure that the expenditures of all funds are regularly monitored, we have established an ARRA budget, a regular budget, and a consolidated budget so that the Finance and Executive Committee can provide more specific oversight. Expenditures will be tracked against budget projections and reviewed and approved after the fact.

Describe the monitoring and oversight criteria and procedures the Local Area has in place to ensure not only compliance with the laws, regulations, and guidance but also with the intent and spirit of ARRA (13).

Our policies and procedures are comprehensive and long-standing (approved in 2002). See Appendix F. All subcontracts are monitored annually as is the Title I Operator and the PA CareerLink. The WIB and the Title I Operator have worked very closely together to ensure that the ARRA is implemented locally within the framework that Congress intended.

Identify the performance indicators and goals established to track progress toward meeting strategic goals and implementing the LWIA' vision for the workforce investment system (14).

Overall, the Board uses a variety of key variables that allow the Board to gauge the overall performance of the workforce system. They include...

  • A continually growing workforce,
  • A lower unemployment rate,
  • An increased number of people entering targeted occupational categories (gold collar jobs) as measured by the number of individuals who enter employment from the expanded training options,
  • More students enrolling in education and training programs that expand and complement the traditional four year college option as measured by the number of Individual Training Accounts (ITA)and pre-employment classes accessed by customers,
  • A lower dropout rate among high school graduates who do participate in post-secondary education of all kinds,
  • Less remedial training needed on the job for high school graduates,
  • Lower dropout rate among high school students,
  • More people participating in continuing education activities through ITAs,
  • Higher literacy rate among the County population, and
  • A lower number of people on public assistance of all kinds as measured by the rolls of the County Assistance Office.

In addition, we are working hard to improve the tracking of placements and retention of individuals by sharing information between case managers and business services representatives in a way that we can keep people from being lost to the system after placement.

 

For More Information Please Contact:

Scott Sheely
Executive Director

Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board
313 W. Liberty St.
Suite 114
Lancaster, PA 17603
717-735-0333
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