In late March, I attended the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) 2023 Forum in Washington, DC. As a first-time attendee, I was excited to learn from workforce development professionals across the country and to connect with former clients, new clients, and colleagues.
Here are a few of the observations from my time in Washington, DC.
1. Apprenticeships are a strong training model that should be expanded.
Registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs), approved and validated by the US Department of Labor (DOL), provide a strong earn-while-you-learn training model. At NAWB, Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas (a current TIP client), Bombardier, and Texas State Technical College led a panel that explained how to create and expand apprenticeships through employer engagement. With support from Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, Bombardier launched an apprenticeship training model with Texas State Technical College providing classroom instruction and the DOL providing technical assistance to register the training. I came away from the session feeling inspired by this collaborative effort to create a program that helps local workers access quality jobs. To learn more about Bombardier’s apprenticeship, check out this video.
2. Workforce boards are strengthening their ties to economic development.
Throughout the conference, I heard stories of workforce boards and economic development organizations working together toward shared goals. For example, the Centralina Workforce Development Board (WDB) in North Carolina assists its local economic development organization with business attraction efforts. By providing a summary of Centralina WDB’s value proposition on employer services, customized to each prospect, Centralina WDB contributed to the recruitment of a logistics and distribution center that created 1,200 new jobs and invested $55 million in the Charlotte region. Economic development and workforce development must continue working together to create more success stories like this one.
3. Labor market analysis is more important than ever.
Every single community represented at NAWB talked about dealing with some sort of workforce shortage. Communities have questions about where to find the talent they need and what strategies can address the gaps between employer demand and talent supply. Analyzing workforce data and monitoring trends in the labor market can help answer these questions. In Texas, the public workforce system is focusing on positioning local workforce boards to be the go-to experts on the Texas talent market. Piloted by Workforce Solutions Alamo, Capital Area, and Rural Capital Area, the Statewide Action Plan to Support Texas Talent and Promote Economic Growth lays out actionable steps and resources to enhance labor market analysis across the state. Workforce professionals in Texas and nationwide can add value to economic development efforts by using workforce data to unlock insights, tell compelling stories, and inform decision-making.
4. The work that workforce boards undertake is about economic dignity.
Workforce boards across the country are asked to do a lot and to be a lot. As I hope this post demonstrates, workforce boards have more to offer than providing programs for eligible job seekers and managing unemployment insurance. Workforce boards are in the business of economic dignity. They help people get the skills needed to successfully participate in the local economy through quality jobs. They connect the dots between employer demand and strong job candidates. They bring together partners to address workforce challenges and pool shared resources. Workforce boards play a pivotal role in strengthening the local economy by promoting economic development and creating more opportunities for the local community to thrive.