Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Role of Workforce Development Going Forward

I live in Nebraska and our neighboring state, Iowa, is caught up in a controversy about a plan to close 36 Workforce Development offices in the state.

The fundamental question about how to serve job seekers is one that resume writers have been contemplating for several years. The Resume Writers' Digest Annual Industry Survey throughout the years demonstrated the shift from office-based resume writers to more and more resume writers working from home. (In the 2010 survey, 76 percent of writers who responded work from a home office only, while 12 percent have both a home and business office.)

The governor's decision to close the offices in favor of creating "access points" -- special software installed on workstations at sites across the state, combined with online chat and a toll-free number -- is drawing criticism as reducing access to services.

But in reality, how many individuals visit Workforce Development offices in person -- unless they have to? Certainly the white collar, professional, and executive unemployed would be bothered less than blue collar workers, seniors, and the technologically challenged. But adding access points in public libraries, for example, would allow for hands-on support (and potentially some additional usage and funds for the libraries in exchange for hosting the access point).

Fundamentally, it's important to look at the nature of how Workforce Development can support the job search. Is their role to help clients find jobs, or to provide them with computer services? Already, many Workforce Development offices are moving more of their resources online -- hosting job boards on their sites, giving jobseekers access to resume building software, and providing support to employers through online portals.

The future of the support system needs to be re-evaluated in light of how the job search has changed through the years. Prospective employees -- even those in blue collar jobs -- are expected to be able to have basic technological proficiency. Effective job search strategies require company research and networking -- but existing Workforce Development services have focused on online job postings (probably in response to earlier rounds of job reductions and funding cuts within the Workforce Development system). It may require a re-imagination of the entire support system to meet the needs of jobseekers, employers, and those funding the services.

Closing offices may be the impetus that spurs on this revitalization of the existing system.

What are your thoughts?

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