Workforce 101

Understanding the Public Workforce System

The public workforce system is a network of government-funded programs that supports the development of our nation’s workforce and its talent.

A network of community centers provides access to employment, education, job training, and labor market information to enhance employment opportunities for all and encourage business growth.

Your public workforce system supports the efforts of many – employers, workers, job seekers, and community leaders and organizations. Understanding your local workforce system is essential to addressing local workforce needs.

Historical Timeline

The nation’s public workforce system has deep roots in America’s history. The Department of Labor was established in 1913 with the purpose “to foster, promote and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, and to enhance their opportunities for profitable employment.”

The foundation for many of today’s workforce programs emerged from the New Deal era (1933 to 1939). The Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933 and the 1935 Social Security Act revitalized the United States Employment Service (USES). The Acts established a nationwide employment office system, known today as American Job Centers (also known as One-Stop Career Centers). The first major publicly funded job training programs began in the 1960s.

The continuous passage of legislative actions strengthens and improves the government’s employment and training efforts to meet current social and economic challenges.

Governance and oversight of the public workforce system have significantly changed over the years too. Decision-making began to shift from the federal level to the states in 1983, while local officials and Private Industry Councils (PICs) continued to approve local programs and administer local funds.

Local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) replaced PICs with the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998, with a majority of representatives appointed from businesses.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 replaced WIBs with Workforce Development Boards (WDBs), shifted their role to an even more strategic one, and encouraged greater collaboration among stakeholders.

Primer and Basics

What is Workforce Development?

Generally speaking, workforce development is a mix of activities, policies, and programs aimed to create, sustain, and retain a viable workforce that can support current and future businesses and industries.

What is the Public Workforce System?

The public workforce system is a network of federal, state, and local agencies that receive federal funds and grants to help individuals prepare for and find jobs and to help employers find qualified workers.

Who Does the Workforce System Serve?

Many people can benefit from their local workforce system programs and services. Here are a few:

  • Employers, industry organizations, and business associations
  • Mid-career workers needing a skills upgrade
  • Workers seeking jobs or advancement
  • Individuals with many different personal challenges to finding meaningful work
  • Adults in need of basic skills
  • Youth with barriers to employment

What Does the Workforce System Provide?

The public workforce system provides a multitude of resources for businesses and for job seekers. Here are a few:

  • Career counseling
  • Job search and placement assistance
  • Access to job training, employment opportunities, and work-related supportive services
  • Skills assessments
  • Labor market information and analysis
  • Human resource-related supportive services
  • Coordination of workforce strategies and policies
  • Funding, referrals, and other resources to support system initiatives

How is the Public Workforce System Organized?

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is the primary public law that provides the framework for the nation’s job-driven public workforce system. WIOA is focused on both job seekers and employers. The programs and services funded by the WIOA are designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.

Workforce Development Boards (WDBs)

Under the WIOA, state and local officials, and private sector-led Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) are responsible for the development of a strategic plan that supports economic growth and labor force needs. Local WDBs are the heart of innovation and success in the public workforce development system. These boards lead the alignment of education and workforce systems to meet the needs of business and workers in coordination with state workforce agencies. They also hold the system accountable by providing policy guidance and direction, evaluating performance, and recommending continuous improvements.

American Job Centers

The nation-wide American Job Center System (AJCs) is the operational hub for the delivery of services, serving as a primary entry point into services for job seekers and employers in the local area. There are more than 2,400 Career/Job Centers located across the country. Designed to serve both businesses and job seekers in a single location, these Centers offer universal access to a full array of employment-related services and tools free of charge.

WIOA authorizes the American Job Center Network and the following core programs:

WIOA Title I: Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth Programs

Adult and Dislocated Worker Employment & Training funding support career services, training services, job placement assistance, and incumbent worker training.

  • Adult training prioritizes eligible workers that are low-income, veterans, or basic skills deficient.
  • Dislocated Worker training focuses on eligible individuals who lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, are unlikely to return to their occupations, and have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

For more information on the Title I Adult and Dislocated Worker program, please visit the NJ LWD’s WIOA resources website.

Youth Employment & Training funding supports programs serving eligible youth, ages 14-24, who face barriers to education, training, and employment.

Funds for youth services are allocated to states and local areas based on a formula. The WIOA Youth Program focuses primarily on out-of-school youth, requiring local areas to expend a minimum of 75% of WIOA youth funds on them. WIOA prioritizes work experience through a 20% minimum expenditure rate for the work experience program element.

Local programs provide youth services in partnership with American Job Centers and under the direction of local Workforce Development Boards. In Bergen County, 100% of youth funding is allocated to the out-of-school youth population (ages 16-24).

The program includes 14 program elements that are required to be made available to youth participants

  • beginning with career exploration and guidance,
  • continued support for high school diploma (or its recognized equivalent) attainment, opportunities for skills training in in-demand industries and occupations, such as pre-apprenticeships or internships, and
  • culminating with a good job along a career pathway, enrollment in post-secondary education, or a Registered Apprenticeship.


For more information on the Title I Youth program, please visit the WorkforceGPS website.

WIOA Title II: Adult Education & Family Literacy Program

The Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) supports various services to help eligible adults develop basic skills.

Services assist with:

  • improving reading, writing, math, and English proficiency;
  • attaining a high school diploma or equivalent;
  • transition to post-secondary education and training and employment.

For more information on the Title II Adult Education and Literacy program, please visit the NJ LWD’s WIOA resources website.

WIOA Title III: Employment Service Program

The Wagner-Peyser Act Employment Services (ES) program focuses on providing a variety of employment-related labor exchange services, including but not limited to:

  • job search assistance,
  • job referral and placement assistance for job seekers,
  • re-employment services to unemployment insurance claimants, and
  • recruitment services to employers with job openings.

The services offered to employers, in addition to the referral of job seekers to available job openings, include:

  • assistance in the development of job order requirements,
  • matching job seeker experience with job requirements,
  • skills and other attributes,
  • assisting employers with special recruitment needs,
  • arranging for job fairs,
  • assisting employers analyze hard-to-fill job orders,
  • assisting with job restructuring and helping employers deal with layoffs.

For more information on Title III Labor Exchange services, please visit the NJ LWD’s WIOA resources website.

WIOA Title IV: Vocational Rehabilitation Program

The Rehabilitation Act Title I – Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services support vocational rehabilitation and training services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their employability, independence, and integration into the workplace and community.

Services focus on transitioning high school students to work and a variety of individualized adult services, including occupational training and assistive technologies.

Additionally, VR supports services to assist employers in hiring and retaining VR customers with disabilities.

For more information on the Title IV Vocational Rehabilitation services, please visit the NJ LWD’s WIOA resources website.

Partner Network

To remain competitive, the public workforce system works in partnership with business, education, government, and community leaders to provide information and services to help businesses find qualified workers and job seekers obtain employment and training services to advance their careers.

Every partner has a critical role to play!

Business & Industry Partners

  • Employers
  • Business and Industry Associations
  • Labor Unions
  • Staffing Agencies

Public Sector Partners

  • Economic/Workforce Organizations
  • Job and Career Centers
  • Public Libraries
  • Social Services
  • Policy Makers

Non-Profits & Community Partners

  • Community Organizations
  • Philanthropic Organizations
  • Service Providers
  • Workforce Intermediaries

Education & Training Partners

  • School Districts
  • Two- and Four-Year Colleges
  • Career and Technical Education Providers

Regional Alliances

Multi-stakeholder alliances and networks are strategic tools for shaping the present and future workforce. Having diversity in partners and perspectives presents a means to coordinate skills and resources, encourage sharing knowledge and information, and bring together innovation clusters to generate more value for the workforce system.

North Jersey Partners

The northern New Jersey regional workforce alliance is represented by North Jersey Partners (NJP). NJP is a collaboration of ten counties in northern New Jersey that promotes regional integration of talent development, transportation, workforce, and economic development activities. NJP facilitates peer exchanges and serves as a coalition for advocacy on regional workforce issues.

Garden State Employment and Training Association

The Garden State Employment and Training Association (GSETA) is the only private, non-profit organization in the state whose mission encompasses all of New Jersey’s Workforce Development system. GSETA serves as a clearinghouse on workforce matters and issues and provides effective leadership through the expertise of its collective membership and other affiliated organizations.

Visit the GSETA website for more information.

Governance and Funding

WIOA funds flow from the U.S. Department of Labor to state workforce agencies to local governments and Workforce Development Boards to local Job Centers and Service and Training Providers. While funding of the public workforce system relies heavily on federal WIOA funds, local systems leverage other government and community resources, such as state funds, special grants, and employer-led initiatives to support local workforce development.


The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) is the U.S. federal government body responsible for programs and laws covering the many facets of labor and employment. Its mission is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”

Visit the USDOL website for more information.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is the USDOL department that administers federal government job training and worker dislocation programs, federal grants to states for public employment service programs, and unemployment insurance benefits. These services are primarily provided through state and local workforce development systems.

Visit the ETA website for more information.


The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) helps broaden the skills of the State’s workforce through the statewide system; provides vital income security to workers who are unemployed or unable to work; enforces labor laws and standards; analyzes the State’s labor market and demographic information; helps individuals with disabilities succeed in the workplace; promotes labor-management harmony and protects the health and safety of workers on the job. The LWD also provides funding for job training to employed, unemployed, and underemployed workers, enabling them to align their skills with the needs of businesses.

The three main components of LWD workforce development programs are:

  1. State programs funded by unemployment insurance (UI) and payroll tax revenues.
  2. Programs funded by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) .
  3. State and federal programs to facilitate transitions from welfare to work. New Jersey’s welfare reform program , WorkFirst NJ, provides assistance and support to families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and to individuals and couples with no dependent children, through our General Assistance (GA) program.

Visit the LWD website for more information.

The State Employment and Training Commission (SETC) is New Jersey’s State Workforce Development Board responsible for assisting the Governor in performing the duties and responsibilities required by the federal WIOA. All members of the Board are appointed by the Governor.

Visit the SETC website for more information.


Job Center Logo
The Bergen County Workforce Development Board (Bergen WDB) is Bergen County’s Local Workforce Development Board responsible for assisting the Bergen County Executive in performing the duties and responsibilities required by the federal WIOA, with guidance and oversight from the state workforce agencies. All members of the Board are appointed by the County Executive.

Learn more about the Bergen County WDB.

The Bergen County Job Center provides access to a full range of employment-related services to our job seeker and employer customers, all under one roof, and at no cost.

In addition to Job Center sites, the LWD partners with the New Jersey State Library and select public libraries in New Jersey to provide career guidance and job search assistance.

Learn more about New Jersey Career Connection Sites on the New Jersey Career Connections website.

Some services are not delivered by the Job Center. Instead, they are contracted out to Service Providers through a competitive procurement process. For more information on contracted services and Request for Proposal (RFP) announcements, visit the Service Providers and Training Providers page.

Occupational education and job training programs paid by publicly-funded tuition assistance are delivered through eligible Training Providers. The LWD and SETC maintain a comprehensive listing of all schools, organizations, and training programs on the Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) on the New Jersey Training Opportunities website (NJTOPPS) website . Any training provider seeking to receive state or federal job training funds must be listed on the ETPL, and any student seeking to obtain state or federal job training funds through the public workforce system must select a program from the ETPL.

Contact the Workforce Development Board

What Can the Bergen County Workforce System Do For You?

We are interested in hearing about your workforce needs, and invite you to explore our website to learn about the opportunities that are available. When you are ready, connect with us to find out how we can help you meet your workforce goals.

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