As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, workers and businesses need different supports from the workforce system, and many workforce practitioners are meeting the moment by shifting long-standing practices.
We have an opportunity to adjust the structures serving the populations that need the workforce system the most.
The moment is right to learn from local leaders and practitioners and fine-tune practices at every level – federal, state and local, including industry partners – to prepare all workers for good jobs.
The moment is right to maximize the full potential of the unprecedented federal investments in infrastructure, clean energy, manufacturing, technology and other critical sectors by ensuring that the public workforce is as strong as the rest of the country’s infrastructure.
Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su frequently likens our workforce system to our physical infrastructure: “Like physical roads and bridges, there are potholes and cracks. And there are entire communities — often poor, of color, immigrant — that aren’t served well. The system, as it stands, doesn’t work for everyone. This is our chance to make sure it does.”
Yes, WIOA Can! is an initiative with a clear message that reflects a broader strategy that the Department of Labor is using to pursue bold and innovative actions to strengthen our workforce infrastructure, while centering equity in everything we do.
While we have been challenging the workforce system to innovate, we recognize that some of our programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers. All levels of the workforce system – federal, state and local – can address and remove barriers. Doing so will position the workforce system to connect under-resourced and underrepresented workers and communities to good jobs created by a generational investment in our nation.
We have launched a Yes, WIOA Can! online community to explain how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act can be used to further innovation, equity and job quality. We’ll share local and state examples of how workforce partners are leveraging the flexibilities under WIOA to achieve results and drive equitable outcomes.
We invite you to partner with us to showcase true innovation and opportunity in developing America’s skilled and diverse workforce. Together we can unleash the full power of WIOA to connect people to good jobs and employers to skilled workers.
Brent Parton is the acting assistant secretary of labor for Employment and Training.