A new day for workforce development

The Louisiana Department of Labor (LDOL) no longer exists. It has been replaced by the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC).

While it will continue to administer the unemployment and workers compensation programs that were operated by the LDOL, the new LWC will primarily focus on developing the workforce that business needs at the speed of business.  How will this be possible?

The LWC’s workforce development system will be business connected and business-driven.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) was instrumental in drafting and promoting the bill that created the new LWC.  Governor Jindal’s package of bills to reform workforce development in Louisiana, which included the LABI proposal, was unanimously supported by the Legislature during its regular session.  The governor is to be commended for recognizing the fundamental importance of workforce development to the vitality of Louisiana’s economy, and the Legislature likewise for sharing that vision and enacting the legislation.

Now the difficult work of implementation begins.  The LWC’s executive director, Tim Barfield, expects that full implementation of the changes will take about two years.  There are a few critical components that comprise this new approach to create the workforce Louisiana businesses and workers must have to be successful.

The first component is the integration of workforce services and training into a package that can be readily accessed by job seekers and employers in one location.  Often, persons looking for work or training also need assistance in other respects so they can work or be trained.  Under the new system, services relating to housing, child care and transportation will be added to the training and education tools at the LWC’s disposal for developing the workers that employers are seeking.

This only happens if the heads of the education, economic development, social services, and corrections departments work together to make it so.  Executive Director Barfield is already working with these individuals to identify and coordinate the integration of the various workforce programs and services strewn across their various agencies.  It is gratifying to see the cooperation manifest among these state leaders so far.

The second component is the localization of information gathering and problem solving.  The federal Workforce Investment Act requires states to have local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), the majority of whose members must be business representatives.  In the coming months, existing WIBs will go through a “chartering” process and performance standards will be established for them, as called for under the new law.  WIBs will be given greater responsibility, flexibility and resources to address the needs they find within their districts, and the commission is charged with equipping and training WIB members for their new tasks. The expanded role will come with greater accountability for results.

For this initiative to succeed, businesses must contact their WIBs to communicate their employment needs.  Capable business leaders have to step forward to serve on the WIBs.  And, it is absolutely vital that business people insist that their local elected officials responsible for appointing WIB members choose the best and most able to serve.

This means that business people will need to familiarize themselves with their WIBs.  An opportunity to do so is close at hand.hand.heginning in mid-September, the LWC will conduct a series of eight Workforce Summits around the state to engage businesses, economic development organizations and other stakeholders in redefining regional workforce issues and improving the forecasting of workforce needs in the future.

If government cuts the red tape and business steps up to the plate, Louisiana can win the contest for workforce recruitment, retention and expansion.

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