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San Diego Workforce Partnership:
Policy and Systemic Influence
Grant number, name and location: Customized Employment - 01, San Diego, CA, E-9-4-1-0081
Grant recipient: San Diego Workforce Partnership, Inc.
Project Lead: San Diego Workforce Partnership, Inc.
Subcontractors: Five One-Stop Centers (Escondido , San Diego , and El Cajon ); Access Center (an assistive technology technical assistance resource center); and the University Center on Excellence on Disabilities (UCED) at San Diego University. Early on, the grantee subcontracted most of its activities to Community Service Providers (Goodwill and Able/Disabled primarily), but radically changed its structure after two years to internalize the activities of the grant in its own system.
- Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and WIB administrative agencies are key players in workforce policy issues, if they choose to take a strong role
- Performance measures are a manageable challenge when treated constructively by the WIB
- Lack of experience is a key barrier to customized business-outreach efforts
- Grant structure (and overuse of subcontractors) severely hinders the capacity for systems and policy change.
As the grant recipient, the administrative body of the Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB), as well as the LWIB itself, have become intimately involved in the workings and sustainability of this grant. They have made significant local policy changes that will influence the way individuals receive services within the county and ensure that the gains made by the grant are not lost over time.
At one point, the city and county of San Diego had different administrative entities handling Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding or its equivalent (e.g., CETA or JTPA). Now the city and county administration have been merged into the Workforce Partnership, and the two LWIBs have been combined into a single entity with numerous committees on policy and performance. This has drastically simplified what is a very large system and made local policy-making easier and more effective.
In each site, concerns over performance measures are considered a key potential barrier to continued performance of project functions once the grant expired. As an answer to these concerns, the WIB in San Diego has identified individuals with disabilities and others with barriers to employment as special populations and has mandated that a certain percentage of all successful closures need to include individuals from these groups. It has reinforced this policy with clearly structured incentives. In the first year, additional funds were provided (in coordination with Customized Employment Project funding) to assist local centers with this effort. After that, centers failing to meet the revised service levels for special populations were to be put on an improvement plan. Failing to meet this plan and its requirements would eventually result in decertification of the system. These performance measures have provided the required impetus for local sites to remain vigilant in their training and in serving a wide range of customers.
Business Service Units
The San Diego Workforce Partnership recently led an effort to place Business Service Teams in each of its One-Stop Career Centers (One Stop). This initiative is being headed by an LWIB committee, administered and managed through the Workforce Partnership, and implemented through partnerships at the local level. At a minimum, each team will include members from the One-Stop contracted operator (e.g., Arbor, San Diego Career Opportunities Partners (SDCOP), etc.), and from the Employment Development Department of the Employment Services Division of state government. Some tasks will be shared, while others will be the responsibility of designated individuals.
Services to businesses have been divided into two categories: "general" services, which any business can receive, and "premium," which only certain businesses will qualify for based on their size, industry, or history of active partnership with the One-Stop. In addition to prioritizing the work of the Business Service representatives, this distinction makes a very important statement both to staff and to potential partners in the business community, namely, that the One-Stop views itself as an asset to businesses, an equal partner, and not a supplicant seeking job postings. Grant staff have been involved in the design of the Business Service units and in ensuring that teams are marketing the skills of all One-Stop customers equally.
In discussion of services provided by various business service staff, one staff member in the North Metro center indicated that he used On the Job Training (OJT) allotments (click here for more information) with many of his businesses, while other business service representatives hardly ever did. Because of his experience working with OJT as a case manager, this representative was better able to market this resource to businesses than his peers. It will be important going forward for all business service representatives to have experience in job carving, role negotiation, and other aspects of customized or negotiated employment so they can discuss these options with an employer.
Finally, it is worth noting that the design of the grant changed drastically within two years of the grant's start date, due to the ineffectiveness of the original model. Initially, the grant was designed to subcontract most of its activity out to community rehabilitation providers. While this produced the necessary numbers, it did not address the systems change aspect of the grant. As a result, the grant leaders drew the money and capacity of the grant back into their own system, and used the community groups only on an as-needed basis. This forced the workforce system and its people to work through and learn from the challenges that the grant presented.