Issue #6: Workforce Development

States and localities continue to integrate workforce development efforts across programs.

The big picture: A provision in the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) prioritized the integration of workforce development programs with job training and employment elements of other public benefit programs like TANF and SNAP Education and Training (SNAP E&T). There are a number of reasons for integration, including the ability to raise awareness of other programs by placing them together and to allow collaboration in engaging potential employers.

There are a number of reasons to integrate workforce development programs — including the ability to raise awareness of other programs by placing them together and to allow collaboration in engaging potential employers.

On the horizon: The Trump administration has expressed an interest in reforming public benefit programs from the perspective of workforce development (see above Issue #3: Work Requirements in Public Benefit Programs), including by giving states more freedom to design and implement programs as they see fit. It is unclear what, if anything, may happen at the federal policy level in 2019. States, however, continue to look for creative ways to integrate services.

For example, in Washington State, the Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) oversees both TANF and SNAP E&T and was at the table during the state’s WIOA planning process. DSHS is working to better link SNAP E&T and the state’s workforce system, while raising awareness about SNAP within the workforce system. DSHS also maintains an online portal where people can identify and apply for education, employment, and training services as well as public assistance.

Ramsey County, Minnesota, is integrating TANF and WIOA and partnering closely with county Health and Human Services to “create a tangible, sustainable, long-term partnership and seamless program for residents/families, using career pathways models.” For example, in its Pipeline to Prosperity program, WIOA and TANF counselors use coaching, mentoring, and motivational interviewing strategies to connect highly motivated individuals in high-poverty areas to jobs with a sustainable wage.

In 2019, we’ll be watching for additional examples of integration strategies and measurable outcomes, especially as states implement their required four-year plans under WIOA.