In the wake of the destruction and upheaval left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Louisiana Department of Labor was given the opportunity to change the way workforce development was performed in the state.
Officials weren't sure this new way of doing business would work. They weren't even sure exactly how to enact the transformation. But through a process of trial and error, the state moved from a system defined by separate program staffs trying to provide coordinated services, to one that integrates all workforce development services in one location.
Integration seemed like the logical step for the DOL, especially considering the implementation of Common Measures. After Katrina, parts of Louisiana's workforce system were – like the rest of the state – in shambles. Records were lost. Customers were displaced to new locations, some to move away from the state entirely.
There were several ideas driving the reorganization of Louisiana's system. First, the state wanted to give its Workforce Investment Board's an enhanced role – strategic planning would be performed on the regional level, with local response and design. A great deal of control was given to the regions, which communicated policy to the locals.
Second, creating an integrated employment and training system would require aligning a variety of funding streams. With Common Measures performance measures for Wagner-Peyser and WIA, the same customer would have the same outcomes for each stream – why duplicate effort?
Finally, focus would need to be made on community-wide economic development, with an eye on regional business service delivery strategies and structure.
The result? Better responsiveness to customer needs, improved customer service, expansion of services and better access to them, and improved performance throughout the system.
Now, when a person comes into a Career Solutions office they are managed through a team approach, not according to the program from which they would have, in the past, received services. The buzzwords are no longer "Wagner-Peyser" or "WIA." Staff members are organized by team (such as the Membership Team, or the Skills Development Team) and customers are served by a team based upon what stage they are in with respect to their employment needs.
Enrollment in WIA is automatic for customers visiting the office; Internet-only customers are placed in the Wagner-Peyser pool. Customers are further categorized into groups based upon their needs, which determines their service level. For example, groups might be arranged by level of work experience (no experience, limited experience, or good experience), which in turn determines what types of services the individual receives.
The following is a diagram of Louisiana's integrated services model:
A job seeker visiting a Career Solutions office is first met by the Membership Team, who assists the individual in completing a membership application (which replaces the old method of registering an individual for services). The Membership Team then passes the individual on to the Skills Development Team, who thoroughly assesses their needs; if the person has no work history, a skills assessment or interest inventory using the Louisiana Virtual OneStop (LAVOS) system might be suggested. If the person is already working, a resume review or job search plan might be implemented.
When the job seeker is ready they are moved along to the Recruitment and Placement Team, whose focus is on working job orders in LAVOS – a system designed and maintained by Geographic Solutions – and effectively matching individuals with employers. This team works closely with employers, recruiting individuals coming in from the Skills Development Team to fill positions proactively, rather than waiting for an individual to find a job they're interested in and then asking a staff member for a referral.
The Recruitment and Placement Team works with employers to help them create online job orders that get responses. In Louisiana, they found that many employers omitted a minimum wage on their job posting. A Recruitment and Placement Team member would then contact the employer and explain that job orders lacking at least a minimum wage were very rarely pursued by job seekers. Staff would then help the employer access local labor market wage data in LAVOS to suggest an appropriate wage to put on the job order.
Louisiana was determined that the services that the teams provided would reflect and address what is meaningful in the real world. For example, businesses typically require the use of an online job application for online job orders, so the Skills Development Team offered classes to individuals on how to successfully complete them. The team also taught job seekers how to create resumes in email, scannable formats, since applications to online job postings require that type of resume.
Louisiana’s integrated services model also transformed the concept of "follow up" into a new task called "Membership Management." Each team had target groups (such as customers with new resumes, or members with staff-assisted referrals) that were contacted on a regular basis to try and avoid the traditional "soft-exit" calls. This increased level of customer contact was facilitated and made more efficient through the use of templates in LAVOS.
Although the new structure has not been in place long enough to provide performance data, anecdotal evidence has shown the following outcomes:
For job seekers
A full menu of career and workforce development services that are driven by real-world needs and requirements.
A standardized framework for service delivery that allows for customization of individual job seeker services based on what each individual needs to succeed.
More efficient and effective services which are not dependent upon program-specific funding.
Comprehensive business services tailored to the changing needs of employers in the local labor market.
Services offered to a full range of businesses with a focus on high demand and high growth industries.
A larger applicant pool with skills to match employer needs.