Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

HJR 713: Joint Subcommittee Studying the Need for Greater Consolidation or Coordination of Virginia Workforce Development and Training Resources

June 21, 2005

The joint subcommittee held its first meeting on Tuesday, June 21, 2005, in Richmond, Virginia. Members are Delegates Kathy J. Byron (Chairman), Thomas Wright, Jr., David A. Nutter, James M. Scott, and Clarke N. Hogan and Senators Frank M. Ruff, Jr. (Vice-chairman), Wm. Roscoe Reynolds, and Yvonne B. Miller. Citizen members are George E. Hunnicutt, Jr., Bruce Phipps,
C. Michael Ferraro, Dr. Rose Harrell Johnson, and Dr. John J. Cavan.

Staff gave an initial study report briefing the members on the five tasks set out in the authorizing resolution, as well as reviewed legislative history of workforce training in Virginia. The members
reviewed the three different Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization proposals currently under discussion at the federal level: H.R. 27-Job Training Improvement Act of 2005; S. 1021-The Workforce Investment Act Amendments of 2005; and the Bush administration's WIA-Plus Consolidated Grant Program.


Update of the JLARC 2002 Workforce Training Study

Dr. Kirk Jonas, former Deputy Director of JLARC, provided an update of the 2002 JLARC study, "Review of Workforce Training in Virginia." Dr. Jonas noted that the initial review was conducted when the program was relatively new and that the program has matured since 2002. He also noted that the study defined "workforce training" as programs that provided education or services directly designed to advance an individual's ability to obtain or sustain employment. Services such as inmate services were outside the scope of the definition and not included in the study.

The position of Special Advisor to the Governor on Workforce Development has been created since the study was completed. By statute, the position is clearly that of an advisor, not a "workforce czar," but confusion over expectations and responsibilities led to difficulty implementing the position. While Dr. Jonas found there to be a wide range of views on the effectiveness of the position, most parties interviewed agreed that workforce training has moved forward in the last two years. Some interviewees attributed that progress to the Special Advisor position.

Dr. Jonas indicated that much of the information contained in the 2002 study remains relevant. Overall, progress has been made, but certain issues identified in the study remain of concern. For example, there continues to be variability in the success of the one-stop centers. Other areas identified as problems in the 2002 study are no longer of concern, e.g., the passage rate on the WIA performance measures.

In summary, Dr. Jonas found major positive changes since the completion of the JLARC report, including the gubernatorial and secretarial focus on WIA, better system-level guidance, greater understanding of program objectives, and improved state-level supervision and oversight. Requiring local WIBs to prepare annual workforce demand plans identifying jobs and skills needed by employers was seen by many as a positive step.

WIA Structure and Implementation

There remain difficulties due to the structure of the WIA, which cuts across multiple secretariats, agencies, levels of government and funding streams. In addition, two-thirds of the workforce training funds are federal and are not subject to state control or consolidation. Finally, tensions exist among the agencies as to which clients they are seeking to serve.

When asked, Dr. Jonas agreed that the programs are "sliced" differently at the local level. He clarified that "work first" means that "the best preparation for work is work itself," so if a job becomes available for which a worker is qualified, he will be placed in that position.

Gail Robinson, Liaison to the Virginia Workforce Council, VEC, provided a pamphlet containing a graphic overview of the WIA implementation in Virginia. The chart detailed the nine different state agencies which administer WIA-mandated partner programs, as well as showed the federal and state money received by the different programs, the populations targeted to receive services, and statistics on the number of services provided and outcomes achieved. Ms. Robinson cautioned that the figures are not necessarily appropriate for comparison across programs, as the unique needs of the persons receiving services may be more intensive for certain populations than for others.

Commissioner Dolores Esser led the members of the subcommittee through one program from the agency level vertically down through the impact level. Using the WIA Youth Program as an example, Commissioner Esser explained how the program is funded and where funds are distributed. She noted that 20% of the funds available for WIA Adult or Dislocated Worker programs may be transferred between those two programs, but that, with that exception, the state has no control over where the federal funds are spent. When asked about the sizeable carryover of past year funds for youth programs, Commissioner Esser noted that, prior to the enactment of WIA in 1998, youth services had been provided directly through the schools. It has been difficult to reach youth through the WIA "youth providers" format.

In response to a question as to whether there are any state funds for VEC, Dr. Jonas clarified that WIA allows VEC to retain 15% of the federal funds for state administration, including VEC and WIA activities and the office of the Special Advisor.


Debbie Melvin, Project Manager, Workforce Services, Department of Business Assistance, provided an overview of the Workforce Services Program. The program is the second oldest economic development incentive program in Virginia, and was recently ranked as the fifth top workforce training program in the nation due to its flexibility and ease of use. Testimonials included in the handout provided by Workforce Services praised the program for its responsiveness and lack of "red tape." The program is performance based, so that no grant money is disbursed until a job is created. Funding comes from state and federal sources and is available as incentives for both new businesses and existing businesses that are expanding or undergoing changes in technology requiring retraining. The funds for existing businesses often save or expand jobs in Virginia. Current estimates indicate that Workforce Services will exhaust its funding by the end of Fiscal Year 2006.

Ms. Melvin noted that, if employees to be hired need additional training services before they satisfy the company's needs, the company may access both Workforce Services funds as well as other workforce training funds. Local economic development staffs are the biggest proponents of Workforce Services and serve as the main contacts concerning the needs of local companies. Workforce Services staff also stay in touch with local WIBs throughout the state. A member of the subcommittee indicated that, in the past, there had been a lack of coordination and communication with local WIBs when businesses arrived or expanded. Ms. Melvin noted that Workforce Services is working towards including letters from local WIB directors in packets mailed to prospective companies. Chairman Byron noted that there has been some frustration for the Virginia Workforce Council that local businesses are not working with the local WIBs and that coordination is not taking place. The members requested that agency information on training dollars and jobs created in the different areas of state be obtained and submitted to the joint subcommittee for review.


Future meetings will include presentations from different agencies as well as from local WIBs, training providers, and businesses that have received training. Martin Simon from the National Governor's Association will speak to the subcommittee concerning his case study of five states implementing workforce training. A member of the subcommittee asked that there be information on the people who are not being served, along with their educational level. The vice-chairman asked that there be a comparison of what's occurring in WIB areas of greater affluence compared to those in areas of less affluence.

The Hon. Kathy J. Byron

For information, contact:
Frank Munyan, DLS Staff



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