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The Workforce Investment Act Published: Sunday, September 19, 1999 By: Ramón Luis Rivera

A major reform of the federal employment and job training system is currently under implementation, with a significant impact for Puerto Rico. It was triggered by the enactment on the part of the U.S. Congress of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) on August 1998. This public law aims to design and implement a revitalized system that can provide workers with the information, advice, job search assistance and training they need to get and keep good jobs and provide employers with competent and skilled workers. A project is a series of organized activities and tasks that: creates a unique product, service, process or plan; have a specific objective to be completed within certain specifications; have defined start and end dates; have funding specifications; consumes resources (i.e., money people, equipment)

A patchwork of Federal job training programs took shape over the last six decades, each element responding to a particular concern at a specific time. The result has been an often duplicative and fragmented system that lacks sufficient focus on the needs of its customers, both workers and employers. Bureaucratic processes, limited choice for people seeking opportunities, lack of quality information and absence of strong accountability for results have been some of the effects of such approach.

The act strives to increase the employment, retention, and earnings of participants, and increase occupational skills attained by them. It also aims to improve the quality of the workforce, enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the country and reduce welfare dependency.

To accomplish the goals of the new legislation, the new workforce investment system is being built around several key design principles: Streamlining Employment and Training Services through the One Stop Delivery System; Empowering individuals (accomplished through Individual training accounts); Universal Access (every individual will have access to core employment-related services); Increased accountability by mean of performance goals on core indicators; Long term planning through a strong role for local boards and the private sector; Local flexibility (the system can be tailored to meet the particular needs of individual local areas); and Improved youth programs.

A Workforce Investment Board is established at each state or territory. It assists the governor to develop a five-year strategic plan, designate local workforce investment areas, develop allocation formulas, continuously improve the system and develop performance measures.

The cornerstone of this new workforce investment system is "One -Stop Service Delivery", which unifies numerous training, education, and employment programs into a single, customer-friendly system. The underlying notion of "One Stop" is the integration of programs, services and governance structures. It is envisioned that each local system will represent true collaboration between all of the One-Stop partners. Partners will provide such services in a way that is consistent with their respective authorizing legislation.

The act specifies the federal programs and activities that are required to participate in each local One-Stop System. Those are entities that carry out programs authorized under Title I of the Act (employment and training activities for youth, adults and dislocated workers), Wagner-Peyser Act, vocational rehabilitation, welfare to work programs, vocational education, employment services for veterans, and Unemployment Insurance among others.

The Governor, taking into consideration socio-economic and population criteria designates local areas. In the case ofPuerto Rico, fifteen local areas have been designated, which are the same "Service Delivery Areas" created for the former "Job Training Partnership Act" (JTPA) scheme. Each One-Stop partner is required to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the local board.

The implementation of WIA inPuerto Ricorequires that all levels coordinate and collaborate with agencies and entities that have not been part of the "traditional" workforce development system. As contributors of this effort, the QBS team has been positioning non-traditional design perspectives with all the stakeholders involved, and catalyzing implementation decisions, following a systemic approach. Our fundamental working tools have been four (4) knowledge blocks that shape the conceptual platform of WIA; Systems theory; Quality Philosophy; and Work Theory and Organizational Design and Transformation.

 Copyright 1999 QBS, Inc.
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