The cornerstone of the public workforce system is the AJC, or one-stop local delivery system. Created by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) and reauthorized by Act WIOA in 2014, AJCs bring together key workforce, education, and other partners to offer seamless services to individuals searching for jobs and hoping to build their technical and employability skills, and to employers looking for skilled workers to fill their job openings. Both WIA, and now WIOA, require certain programs and agencies to support and participate in AJC service delivery as well as allowing additional partners to participate. Although the AJC service delivery system operates under Federal law and rules, states and local boards, which are responsible for implementing the AJC system, are given considerable latitude to adapt the national vision for an integrated, customer-focused workforce system to the needs of their local areas.
From July through December 2016, the study team conducted, on average, a three-day visit to each selected AJC to collect information on and identify key variations in the AJC service delivery system, organizational structure, and administration. On most visits, team members interviewed the local board administrators, Operator entity staff, the AJC manager, AJC partner managers, and frontline staff providing services to AJC job seekers and employers. In addition, AJC partners in 17 sites completed a brief survey between January and June 2017 to further explore AJC partnerships through a network analysis.
Major Findings & Recommendations
This paper's findings are based on data collected when the workforce system was still transitioning from WIA to WIOA. The study provides a comprehensive picture of the AJC system during the very early days of WIOA and provides insights into the changes and potential challenges WIOA raises for AJCs. Observations include:
- Although the goals of sharing in One-Stop operating costs are consistent with WIA, WIOA takes these requirements a step further by specifying that each entity operating a program or activity in an AJC must contribute to the infrastructure costs.
- Local board staff, One-Stop Operators, and AJC partners in the study sites overwhelmingly viewed the need to fill resource sharing obligations in relation to whether the partner had an on-site presence at the AJC.
- WIOA specifies that partner program contributions can take three forms: (1) cash contributions; (2) in-kind contributions, such as donated resources; and (3) third-party contributions.
- State workforce agencies played a significant role in negotiating resource sharing arrangements.
- Most local board directors and AJC managers (26 of 32) believed partners contributed their fair share. However, partner managers in these AJCs were less likely to agree with that assessment.
- In about one-third of the AJCs, local board directors, AJC managers, and partner managers perceived that partner contributions to resource sharing were fair.
- Local board directors and AJC managers found it challenging to encourage new partners to enter resource sharing arrangements or negotiate financial contributions from existing resource sharing partners.
- AJC managers noted that any resource sharing would be cost-prohibitive for partner programs due to resource and funding constraints.
- Six AJC managers indicated that the AJC facility inhibited infrastructure cost-sharing.
- Local board directors reported challenges related to sharing resources under WIOA due to a lack of guidance from their states.
Local boards, and by extension AJCs, may need to change their approach to resource sharing to meet requirements for WIOA infrastructure funding. Under WIA they understood and implemented financial and resource sharing contributions in the context of co-location, and formal and informal resource sharing arrangements typically occurred only among co-located partners. Moving forward, key stakeholders will need to consider how to build win-win partnership investments in the AJC system.