Examines the technological infrastructure of WIOA reporting systems in 46 states through surveys and state site visits; and provides recommendations to improve the integration of data systems for workforce practitioners and policymakers.

In 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) became law tasking WIBS, now known as Workforce Development Boards (WDBs), and One Stops, also known as American Job Centers (AJCs), to harness the benefits of technology on behalf of the public U.S. workforce system. Lawmakers believed that, with the help of technology, WDBs and states could better assess and predict the changing labor markets and improve communications. AJCs could use it to continually improve services by streamlining case management, increase access for job-seekers (particularly in remote areas), and deploy individualized skill development models.

This paper helps to clarify some of the key barriers of implementing comprehensive tech strategies so that the workforce community can quickly find some resolutions. It is the fifth and final phase of the ‘Workforce Data Systems Project,’ an initiative to better understand how technology is currently being used to meet the goals and expectations of WIOA.

The paper begins with an overview of the project’s phases, it then shares common challenges, notable responses to those challenges by the states, and further considerations for practitioners and policymakers. It closes by pointing out that this work needs to connect to the significant innovations to skill development programming and credentialing by employers, education institutions, and private organizations.

The Workforce Data Systems Project strives to provide a common framework to compare different state-level experiences with WIOA implementation. Divided into five phases, the overall goal of the project has been to:

  • Analyze the data innovation challenges and successes workforce agencies and boards are experiencing while trying to meet WIOA mandates;
  • Identify workforce agencies and boards sharing similar successes and challenges;
  • Facilitate sharing and collaboration among workforce stakeholders on best innovation practices; and
  • Develop a body of knowledge and resources to which state and local entities can turn if they need extra help.

The report relies on surveys to workforce staff in 46 states and state-based site visits to Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Tennessee. 

Full publication title: A Changing Workforce Development Landscape: The Current State of Data Technology Systems and Preparing for What Lies Ahead

Major Findings & Recommendations

According to study participants, the tangled administrative web of workforce processes is one of the most complex challenges states face in implementing WIOA because:

  • Three departments are administering 18 workforce related programs.
  • Each grant comes with unique compliance and reporting requirements.
  • Diverse state and local entities are administering an average of 3-5 separate tools and systems to manage the grants.
  • Each system has multiple tools, processes, protocols, and data standards.
  • Multiple entities per state are collaborating with many local stakeholders.

During the site visits, workforce participants identified several shared pain-points in their work to update their systems, such as:

  • Insufficient Funding;
  • Compressed Timeline on WIOA Guidance;
  • Minimal Credit for and Implementation of State and Local Performance Metrics;
  • Data Silos Created by Legal or Technology Barriers;
  • Challenging Change Management and Limited User Adoption;
  • Poor User Experience for AJC Customers; and
  • Ad Hoc Reporting Limitations.

This paper concludes with a summary of the paper’s key points, some of which include responding to challenges to:

  • Manage shifting reporting requirements, adopt and develop an agile development philosophy for implementation practices to mitigate impacts of changes;
  • Mitigate data sharing and improve data connectivity, improve shared governance and collaboration practices and support that with common document and contract templates; and
  • Support technology implementation and user uptake, encourage frequent cross-agency collaboration to foster a quick-response culture to known user-experience issues.