Economic Development and Workforce Development: A Necessary Partnership to Benefit the Economy
Nick Loret de Mola, California Workforce Association

In my role at the California Workforce Association, I have the privilege of traveling up and down the state, and across the country, getting a feel for how the workforce development system is growing and changing in response to a refreshed direction from federal and state stakeholders, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) that encourages the system to innovate and truly put business at the center of their system.

Along with those duties, myself and my colleagues also speak with those stakeholders and legislators directly about their expectations. With the new federal administration, as well as the supermajority situation in California, you would expect some of the messages from legislators to have changed in regards to the work they expect from our system. In some ways, it has. There is a laser focus on effective use of funds, as the realities of potential budget decisions, as well as increased expectations on the system, bring about challenges in capacity above and beyond even those that have been experienced in previous years.

The one message that has maintained through these legislative changes, though, is the need for partnership. Specifically, the need for economic and workforce development to partner. Even more specifically, the need to unburden businesses from continuous, and sometimes conflicting, messaging and visits from representatives from our systems. Businesses have told lawmakers that they need to see this communication simplified.

In an effort to measure the status of partnerships between our systems, the California Workforce Association recently conducted a survey from across the workforce development field in California to see how the local workforce boards were aligning with economic development entities.

Responses came in from all but one of the multiple-county workforce development regions in California, giving us a broad picture of the status of these partnerships.
The results of the survey showed a sentiment that workforce and economic development are complimentary systems that must braid their services and resources to accomplish both their individual, and mutual, goals. Funding and capacity are issues that must be addressed in order to effectively execute on comprehensive strategies.

However, continued partnerships on planning, as well as further strategizing on how to coordinate business outreach and services are approaches that a majority of the respondents were in favor of. CWA will work with CalEd on increasing opportunities for our members to come together and build relationships at the state and local levels.
The collected data will also assist us in building relationships with other business organizations, such as trade associations and Chambers of Commerce. CWA will utilize this data to work with CalEd to begin conversations with these business organizations, ensuring that their viewpoints on their needs from our two systems helps to drive the work that we do together.

Capacity building around linking the systems and strategies to bring the systems together is another priority. CWA is the recognized technical assistance provider to the workforce development system, and through state grants directed at technical assistance, CWA and CalEd will be developing training that aligns with the challenges and assistance requests outlined in this paper.

As lawmakers set the expectation of local systems coming together to serve business, CWA and CalEd look forward to coming together to better serve you.

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