In 2014, President Obama signed the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law, ushering in a new opportunity for workforce development boards to become more strategic and deliver more impact within the communities they serve.
Workforce development boards are local or regional organizations that serve as a conduit for federal, state, and local funding for job training programs and recruitment services for employers.)
In particular, WIOA enhances the opportunity for workforce boards to act as catalysts and build coalitions within their communities around workforce issues. This means that workforce boards must be willing and able to both work collaboratively and encourage collaboration in others. But how can a board ready itself to accomplish these new tasks? Here are five ways:
1. Communicate Clearly. In many communities, the role and value of workforce development boards are not fully understood. In others, awareness of the board’s existence and value is almost nonexistent. A first step for boards that want to step up is to clearly communicate to business, industry, and other organizations about what they do, why they do it, why it matters, and why that organization should care. When boards help others understand the value they bring, they can become desirable collaborative partners.
2. Learn The Lingo. Boards that want to advocate more strongly for workforce development and attract partners will benefit from identifying key words or phrases that resonate best with target audiences. Conducting research and focus groups can help bring the most influential language to light and lay the groundwork for bigger and better advocacy and communication in the future.
3. Advocate Like Pros. Board members and their support staff are uniquely positioned to advocate for supportive policies on behalf of those in need of skills and employment as well as the industries and businesses that hire them. Effective advocacy is both art and science, and workforce boards can benefit from receiving training on advocacy do’s and don’ts as well as how to create effective advocacy plans.
4. Plan To Succeed. Workforce development messages are most effective and influential when they are delivered in a methodical, consistent way by a number of different messengers – from newly-employed individuals, to business and industry leaders, to educators, and economic developers. Getting all of these voices aligned requires intentional, strategic communication planning, and workforce boards can be the catalyst to make that happen.
5. Bring Everyone Together. Supporting a healthy labor market is a task bigger than any single entity, and workforce development boards can play a key role by bringing a variety of community stakeholders (such as leaders in education, business, nonprofits, and philanthropy) together for facilitated discussions. During these gatherings, boards can present research, ask about shared challenges and potential solutions, and mobilize coalitions to address common workforce issues.
Sound like a lot? It can be, but it helps to take these recommendations one step at a time. ACS is here to help, with research, planning, and facilitation services to help any workforce development board become an effective and powerful catalyst for collaboration and change in their community.