This 14-page brief provides an overview of the study design, summarizes the key findings from the four associated papers that showcase the results of the study, and concludes with some implications for the American Job Centers (AJC) system under WIOA. The four related studies are identified as related content along with a copy of this report.

AJCs bring together workforce, education, and other providers to offer seamless services to individuals searching for jobs and to employers looking for skilled workers to fill their job openings. This study paints a picture of the AJC system during the early days of WIOA. The findings offer insights into the changes and potential challenges WIOA raises for the existing AJC service delivery system in its efforts to fully implement WIOA and achieve its vision of an integrated workforce system.

WIA, and now WIOA, require certain workforce training and education programs and agencies to support and deliver AJC services and allow additional partners to participate. At a minimum, each local workforce area (“local area”) and its governing body (“local board”) must establish at least one comprehensive AJC. For this study, the project team chose 40 comprehensive AJCs located in 25 of the 48 continental states. The study purposively selecting them using a two-phase sampling approach to ensure that the focal AJCs varied in geographic location and urbanicity. The study team visited each selected AJC to collect information and identify key variations in the AJC service delivery system, organizational structure, and administration. On each visit, team members interviewed the local board administrators, One-Stop Operator entity staff, the AJC manager, AJC partner managers, and frontline staff providing services to AJC job seekers and employers. Across the 40 featured AJCs, site visitors interviewed over 725 people.

This study of 40 comprehensive AJCs illustrates the complex and rich variation that defined and shaped the AJC service delivery system at a time when states and localities were in the early stages of transitioning from WIA to WIOA. The implementation of WIOA’s competitive procurement requirements in these local areas—and potentially across the country—could prompt changes in the management and growth of AJC services.

This brief analyzes data and research conducted from July to December of 2016.

Major Findings & Recommendations

Features of AJCs findings:

  • Of the 40 AJCs in this study, three-quarters (30 of 40) of the operators were single entities.
  • WIA mandated more than a dozen specific organizations and programs to facilitate job seekers’ and employers’ access to resources.
  • The number of full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) varied considerably across the study AJCs, ranging from 3.8 to 84 FTEs, with an average of 18 FTEs. More than half of the study AJCs reported needing additional staff.
  • The three primary partner programs located on-site at the 40 AJCs were (1) Adult Program; (2) Dislocated Worker Program; and (3) Employment Service (ES).
  • All AJCs used a combination of automated data systems in tandem with homegrown “workarounds” to collect, record, and report data and monitor customers’ services and outcomes.

One-Stop Operator findings:

  • Two-thirds of Operators (27) directly oversaw day-to-day AJC management.
  • WIOA makes several key changes related to the selection of One-Stop Operators that may lead to major changes in the structure, types, and roles of operators.

Resource Sharing Practices Among AJCs:

  • Operating under WIA requirements, local board staff, One-Stop Operators, and AJC partners in the study sites expressed that partners should contribute resources to the center only if they had an on-site presence at the AJC.
  • Among the 20 AJCs that provided detailed funding data, about five partners per AJC contributed resources in the form of cash contributions to support center operations.

AJC Service Delivery in Rural Areas:

  • Rural AJCs operated with less funding and, therefore, less staff than their metropolitan counterparts.
  • Due to the opioid epidemic and other social and cultural shifts, rural AJCs reported that they served more customers with barriers to employment than in the past, but had to do so with less staff and access to specialized training and funding than non-rural AJCs.
  • Rural areas’ large workforce regions generally mean that job seekers travel long distances to access services and jobs and that AJC partner programs, employers, and training providers are not near one another.