Last week, the California State Auditor released a report finding that more effective state planning and oversight is necessary for implementing the federal Workforce Investment Act in California. The findings in the audit confirm what many of us working in the WIA system already knew to be true: a nonalignment of state agency practices and policies and a complacent attitude towards performance measures, has done a disservice to California employers and job seekers alike. Highlights of the recent audit include the following:
- The California Workforce Investment Board (CWIB) has not always complied with federal and state laws.
- Although required by state law since 2006, the CWIB failed to develop a strategic workforce plan for California.
- Steps to identify unnecessary duplication among WIA programs and activities have not been taken.
- Because EDD did not always demonstrate its compliance with WIA provisions when awarding a certain type of funding to local workforce investment boards and a community‑based organization, it increased the state’s risk of losing WIA funding.
- The state is not maximizing the federal funding opportunities available for workforce investment—the audit noted six missed opportunities for federal grants that could have provided up to $10.5 million in additional funds for the workforce investment efforts in the State.
At a time when California remains saddled with a staggering unemployment rate, it is reprehensible to think that job seekers could lose the benefits of a public workforce system as a result of inefficiency and a lack of oversight at the State level.
However, the timing of the audit findings could not be more perfect. The potential to overhaul the delivery of WIA in California has never been more feasible then under the current administration, thanks to the appointments made to the Labor Agency. With Tim Rainey taking the helm of the CWIB in January, change is in the air and these findings will serve as a catalyst and the recommendations as framework, to make positive steps happen.
Rainey has been working to align all state agencies who receive WIA dollars, including bringing in nontraditional partners such as the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, in order to create a more effective service delivery system. In his short three months, the CWIB has been diligently working on implementing the new policies stemming from last year’s labor-backed bills: SB 734 to mandate that a minimum percentage of WIA funds be spent on training, and SB 698 to establish measures for awarding funds to high-performing workforce investment boards.
It is exciting to see the beginning of change taking hold in a system that greatly needs it. Job seekers rely on the benefits that a public workforce system provides. It is time that the state begins to take on an active role in oversight to maximize all funding opportunities and to ensure that every cent that flows into the system is optimized for the ultimate endgame: that real people, receive real assistance, leading to real employment opportunities in family-supporting jobs.
The entire audit report can be found here.