Workforce 101Understanding 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.
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.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (predecessor of the Labor Department) begins collecting employment data.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics moves to the newly established Department of Labor Department (created by the Organic Act). The purpose of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment.
The U.S. Employment Service (USES) begins functioning as a non-statutory general placement agency for immigrants.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics begins collecting unemployment data.
The Wagner-Peyser Act revitalizes the U.S. Employment Service (USES) and establishes a nationwide system of free public employment services offices. The USES also provides placement and recruitment services for the unemployed, and later helps administer Unemployment Insurance (UI) under the Social Security Act.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) is the first federally funded employment and training program to help with the unemployment crisis of the Great Depression by putting millions of people back to work mostly on public works projects.
The National Apprenticeship Act puts the Labor Department in charge of on-the-job training regulations and encourages the use of contracts when hiring individuals to work as apprentices.
The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (now known as the Occupational Outlook Handbook), which defines the tasks and skills needed for specific jobs, is created as a resource for those looking to switch careers or who are unemployed and seeking work.
The Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, popularly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, provides $20 weekly unemployment allowance in addition to counseling, placement services, education and on-the-job training to nearly 10 million veterans between September 1944 and August 1949.
The Area Redevelopment Act of 1961 provides training and assistance in regions of serious unemployment.
The Manpower Development and Training Act (MTDA) creates the first major federal job training program. It focuses on training and retraining individuals who lose jobs due to automation and technology, but subsequently expands services to high school dropouts, older workers, incarcerated individuals, and individuals with disabilities. Less than a year after the law is passed, the Manpower Administration is created. The new agency is tasked with overseeing all employment and training programs at the department.
The Vocational Education Act authorizes federal funds for part-time employment for youth and provides matching federal funds to states for vocational training.
The Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) creates Neighborhood Job Corps, Job Corps, and expands Community Work and Training programs allowing recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to work while receiving benefits.
The Work Incentive Program (WIN) provides work and training programs for Aid to Families with Dependent Children recipients.
Groundbreaking computer technology is used to match unemployed workers with job opportunities.
The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) provides federal funds to State and local governments for an array of employment services such as employment counseling, supportive services, classroom education and occupational skills training, training on the job, work experience, and transitional public service employment. Greater control shifts towards the local level, and employer involvement expands though Private Industry Councils (PICs).
The Trade Act (Trade Adjustment Assistance – TAA) provides benefits and reemployment services for workers who lose their job due to the impact of international trade.
The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) replaces the Manpower Administration. The ETA administers job training programs and oversees the Unemployment Insurance benefits system.
The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA Amendments) is amended and reauthorized in 1978 with an emphasis on private sector participation in employment and training programs and the creation new programs for disadvantaged segments of the labor force. Apprenticeship programs expand, the workforce system is held more accountable, and private sector involvement strengthens.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) is established to serve veterans nationwide by providing job training and other employment services. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act gives state the option to establish workfare under the Community Work Experience Program (CWEP).
The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) Act of 1982 improves upon the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) to deal with new economic challenges. Job training for subsidized jobs is a priority. JTPA relies more heavily on local government and business sector support to improve the employment status of individuals facing barriers to employment.
The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act supports programs to develop the skills of secondary and post-secondary students enrolled in vocational and technical education.
School-to-Work Opportunities (STW) Act creates a school-to-work transition system to provide all students with an opportunity to participate in programs that integrates school-based learning with the real-world context of work.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act replaces existing legislation with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and introduces lifetime limits on benefits and work requirements.
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is enacted to create a means for businesses to participate in workforce training and career pathways programs. It provides funding for local, statewide and national on-the-job training. WIA streamlines programs, emphasizes meeting employers’ needs and quick progression to employment, and improves access to services through the creation of a national network of One-Stop Career Centers. WIA introduces customer choice in training, increases system performance accountability, and recognizes employers and workers as dual customers. WIA also authorizes funds to increase employment and school completion for disadvantaged youth. Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) are created to replace Private Industry Councils (PICs) as the primary policy-making body with oversight authority for local workforce investments.
The Office of Disability Employment Policy is created as an authority on national policy to integrate individuals with disabilities into the workplace. Its goal is to remove the limits on employment opportunities that people with disabilities face. The agency provides information on required accommodations to employers and advises people with disabilities about their rights.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the first legislative reform in 15 years of the public workforce system, supersedes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) change to Workforce Development Boards (WDBs). WIOA is designed to better 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
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
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.”
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.
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:
- State programs funded by unemployment insurance (UI) and payroll tax revenues.
- Programs funded by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) .
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.