Building a Workforce Development Community: A Practitioners' Forum

Panelists: Diane Bell, President and CEO, Empower Baltimore Management Corporation; Tammy Ditzel, Training Director, Maryland Institute for Employment and Training Professionals; Michael Gaines, President & CEO, Maryland Center for Arts & Technology; Brian Lyght, Senior Associate, Annie E. Casey Foundation; Sara Muempfer, Workforce Network Manager, Maryland Works; Marion Pines, Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies; Karen Sitnick, Director, Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and President, Maryland Workforce Development Association; Melanie Styles, Program Officer for Workforce Development, Abell Foundation.

Keynote speaker:
Leon Thomas, President, YCDI Hospitality, Inc.

PowerPoint Presentations:
Building a Workforce Development System (Marion Pines)
Investment, Accountability, and Impact (Brian Lyght)

• Overview of the Workforce Development System
• Workforce Development as a Profession
• Performance-Based Outcomes
• Luncheon Keynote

Overview of Workforce Development System

Marion Pines said that what is referred to as the “workforce development system” in fact comprises a variety of different fields, including employment and training, public safety, social services, education, and economic development. In addition to job seekers, incumbent workers, and employers, the types of individuals involved in workforce development include job developers, retention specialists, trainers, educators, and case managers. While these seemingly disparate professionals have a common mission with regard to workforce development, too often they do work with each other as well as they could. Among the reasons for this lack of collaboration are turf, tradition, separate funding streams, grant reporting requirements, and internal rules and regulations. Yet collaboration among organizations is increasingly important, given the dwindling amount of public resources available for workforce development programs.

Ms. Pines encouraged forum attendees to take the following steps as a way of fostering stronger partnerships:
• Focus on the common mission (of assisting workers and job seekers find and keep employment, and advance in the workforce);
• Joint training;
• Common performance measures;
• Strong leadership;
• Commitment to the client.

Insufficient funds in all partner systems (such as public safety and education) demand that workforce organizations work together to adapt to shifting circumstances. Ms. Pines said that trust among practitioners in all systems and joint strategies to deal with policy changes could help workforce development professionals become “group practitioners” rather than “lone rangers.”

Melanie Styles explained that most workforce development funding flows to nonprofit organizations and local agencies from state agencies, which in turn receive it from a number of federal government agencies. The largest portion of federal workforce money falls under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) , which established state and local workforce investment areas. These areas are administered by state and local workforce investment boards, which are composed of representatives from private industry, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations. (In Baltimore, the Baltimore Workforce Investment Board, or BWIB, works through its various committees to meet the needs of both workers and employers.)

• WIA funding to Baltimore dropped approximately 20 percent between 2000 and 2004, from $11 million to $9 million.
• Youth Opportunity Grant declined from $11 million to $8.3 million during the same period, and will expire in 2005.
• Welfare-to-Work funding ended in January 2004.
• Empowerment Zone funding, which Baltimore received as a $100 million federal block grant in 1994, must be spent by January 2005.

The Workforce System Effectiveness Committee of the BWIB recently conducted a study that found that job training is cost-effective and produces generally positive results for trainees, with a wage gain of $3.55 for every dollar spent on customized training (training that helps participants find skilled careers in specific industrial sectors, such as health care) programs and $1.49 for every dollar spent on training vouchers (Individual Training Accounts or ITA’s).

Workforce Development as a Profession

Karen Sitnick stressed the importance of properly trained workforce professionals in delivering high quality employment and training services. As director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED), she has ensured that all career counselors at MOED One-Stop receive Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) certification. She also helped establish the Youth Practitioners’ Institute (YPI), and has worked to make certain that all Youth Opportunity counselors working for the city are certified by YPI. YPI is a collaborative endeavor involving MOED, Baltimore City Community College, and the Sar Levitan Center for Social Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University. YPI was created to teach youth workers about youth development and give them an understanding of how to find additional funding and resources.

Tammy Ditzel
explained that like many workforce development practitioners, she received no formal training when she began working in the employment services field. She encouraged participants to identify mentors who could help them bridge gaps in skills.

The Maryland Institute for Employment and Training Professionals (MIETP) offers workshops and a menu of customized training opportunities to help meet the specific needs of workforce practitioners and organizations. The certification programs offered by MIETP are GCDF training, Certified Workforce Development Professional (CWDP) training, and Federal Job Search Trainer certification. These programs are explained in more detail below.

• Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF)
GCDF is a professional certification program for career counselors, job developers, case managers, career coaches, career center staff, trainers, job coaches, employer reps, outplacement staff, and interviewers.

To satisfy the educational requirements for GCDF certification, a full 120-hour course of instruction that meets the criteria established by the Center for Credentialing and Education must be completed. The course consists of 108 hours of classroom instruction over 17 days (approximately 2 days per month), with another 12 hours of outside research, assignments, activities, and real-life applications. Coursework taken as part of GCDF certification can be applied to meet the requirements for Certified Workforce Development Professional certification (see below).

GCDF certification involves coursework in the following competency areas: Workforce Development History and Policy; Helping Skills; Labor Market Information and Resources; Assessment; Diverse Populations; Ethical and Legal Issues; Career Development Models; Employability Skills; Training Peers and Clients; Program Management/Implementation; Promotion and Public Relations; Technology; and Consultation.

The cost is $1,395 for MIETP partners (Public workforce agencies), and $1,995 for non-partners.

• Certified Workforce Development Professional
CWDP certification was established by the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP), and can be obtained in one of two ways:
1. Through coursework administered by local NAWDP affiliates, such as MIETP and MD Works; and
2. By applying directly to NAWDP (application packets are available at NAWDP’s website). An application fee is charged.

CWDP certification is granted based on an applicant’s knowledge in 12 competency areas:
History and Structure of the Workforce Development System; Career Development Process; Labor Market Information; Diversity; Customer Service; Program Management; Interpersonal Relations; Technology; General “Helping” Skills; Job-Search Skills; Job-Keeping Skills; and Job-Preparation Skills

• Federal Job Search Trainer Certification
MIETP awards a "Certificate of Competence" for individuals who complete this 3-day program. The course equips career development professionals and trainers with the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to help their job seekers find and obtain employment opportunities with the federal government. Opportunities are also available for professional consultants and trainers to work through MIETP to deliver the certification training to direct service staff.

Sara Muempfer described the many different types of people who need workforce development services of some variety. These populations include inmates and ex-offenders, foreign-born workers, employers, young people, substance abuse treatment recipients, and others. This offers workforce development professionals a broad range of career options, depending on the skill areas they choose to cultivate. Ms. Muempfer encouraged attendees to continuously seek opportunities to improve their skills in the profession, and urged managers of workforce programs to invest in training for their workforce staff.

Maryland Works is a statewide membership association dedicated to promoting economic and workforce development, particularly for workers with disabilities and other underserved populations. The organization is divided into three components:
• The Provider Network is comprised of nonprofit community based organizations that offer employment and other supports that help people get back to work.
• The Workforce Network is made up of a wide range of workforce development, job development, and other career counseling professionals.
• The Rehabilitation & Employment Program creates quality employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, while providing the State of Maryland with high quality services and commodities.

Performance-Based Outcomes

Brian Lyght said that the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) is more interested in reforming the system in which workforce development activities take place than in supporting those activities directly. Consequently, AECF funds initiatives with initiatives with the potential to demonstrate innovative policy, service delivery, and community supports for children and families. Foundations such as AECF typically wish to partner with the organizations they fund, instead of simply granting money

Mr. Lyght outlined a seven-step process that organizations can follow to measure and enhance their performance, which requires measuring progress to improve client outcomes. The process involves an analysis of the following questions:
1. Who are our customers?
2. How can we measure if our customers are better off?
3. How can we measure if we’re delivering services well?
4. How are we doing on the most important of these measures?
5. Who are the partners that have a potential role to play in doing better?
6. What works to do better?
7. What do we propose to actually do?(See Brian Lyght’s PowerPoint presentation above for more information.)

Michael Gaines urged employment and training providers to consider how they can best respond to employers’ needs, since along with job seekers, businesses are the most important stakeholders in workforce development. At the same time, employers have a responsibility to the community and to their employees. Service providers should encourage employers to clearly articulate the needs of their businesses, so that the providers can adequately respond to them.

Diane Bell recommended that attendees examine their organizations’ respective goals, objectives, and cultures. It is also important for programs to develop and analyze hard data about their service populations, their staffs, and the effectiveness of their services. This self-assessment can help an organization go beyond the assumptions it makes about its own work and performance.

Ms Bell shared some of the lessons Empower Baltimore Management Corporation (EBMC) has learned since its inception in 1994:
• Understanding the nature and needs of stakeholders is critical;
• The organization must set clear goals;
• Hard data about the program’s performance are needed to assess effectiveness; and
• Goals must be regularly reviewed and changed if necessary to ensure continuous improvement.

Luncheon Keynote

Keynote speaker Leon Thomas applauded forum participants for their efforts to help job seekers find and keep rewarding employment. He told the story of his own career progress, beginning as a bellman at a small hotel and rising through the ranks to become general manager of a 300-room convention hotel in downtown Philadelphia. Each hotel that he managed saw increased revenues, lower expenses, higher guest satisfaction scores, and improved job retention rates among employees.

As director of training and task force operations for Vista Host Hotel Management Corporation, Mr. Thomas was responsible for improving the outcomes of under-performing hotels across the country by working with hotel managers to improve retention rates, train frontline associates, and help new hotels establish operating procedures.

He attributed his success as a manager and trainer to his focus on creating lively work environments, being flexible with staff work schedules, and simply letting his employees know what tasks needed to be done, rather than instructing them in how to accomplish those tasks. Mr. Thomas said that employers of all varieties could benefit by trusting and respecting their employees and cultivating a sense of openness, teamwork, and a shared sense of mission and vision in the workplace.

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