Creating Powerful Partnerships Between Schools and Workforce Development Centers of the Virginia Community College System

By Debbie Grosser, M.Ed., and Dale Pennell, C.A.S.

 

Mission Statement of the Virginia Community College System

The mission of the Virginia Community College System is to provide comprehensive higher education and workforce training programs and services of superior quality that are financially and geographically accessible and that meet individual, business, and community
needs of the Commonwealth.

 

An interview with Willie Blanton, manager of Workforce Services of the Virginia Community College System

Question

What is the relationship between the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and the Workforce Development Centers?

Answer  

VCCS performs state-level oversight of all initiatives funded through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).  In 1998, Congress authorized WIA to provide funding for activities designed to increase the employment, retention, earnings, and occupational skills of participants. In Virginia, these federal funds are administered through the VCCS, which releases them to local workforce investment boards (LWIBs). LWIBs, in turn, are responsible for establishing and funding local one-stop centers that deliver training and employment services to adults and dislocated workers. LWIBs also determine how any additional WIA funds they receive are used.

Question

What is the mission of Virginia's Workforce Development Centers (WDC)?

Answer 

Generally speaking, each center's mission is to create and maintain the programming and infrastructure necessary to provide employment and training services necessary to create and maintain a highly skilled workforce that is able to meet the demand of employers in the region.  The WDC is the physical location where several partner programs co-locate to provide a wide range of employment-related services to all citizens.

 Question

Who is eligible to receive services through the local Workforce Development Centers?

Answer 

Eligibility for services through the local WDCs falls into several categories, driven by different program requirements.  Core employment services are available to any individual. Intensive services are only available to individuals who meet certain eligibility criteria, including proof of citizenship, age requirements, and selective service registration requirements.  Individuals who meet other qualifications, such as no-fault job loss, may be eligible to receive services as dislocated workers; further, individuals may receive certain services because they meet low-income criteria.  In addition to services under WIA, partner programs in local centers often serve special, or target, populations, such as persons with disabilities.  These programs have diverse eligibility criteria.

Question

What services do the Workforce Development Centers provide clients?

Answer

The local WDCs provide three broad tiers of services: core services, intensive services, and access to training services.  Core employment services are information and self-service activities that do not require eligibility, registration, or tracking of participants.  These services include job search and job placement assistance, access to computers, telephones, fax and copy machines, resume and cover letter development, and employment-related workshops. 

Intensive services are generally staff-assisted services, such as a comprehensive assessment, case management, career counseling, individual service plan development, and other workforce development services, such as basic education for which WIA funding pays. 

The third tier of service is training and career education.  Under WIA, training is provided primarily through individual training accounts (ITAs), sometimes referred to as vouchers. 

The Disability Program Navigator (DPN) initiative is available to persons with disabilities.  Its mission is to improve employment outcomes and increase self-sufficiency and quality of life for jobseekers with disabilities by ensuring that they have equal access to all services offered through Virginia's Workforce Network. DPN services include:

 

  • Service Collaboration
  • Training and education
  • Relationship-building with employers
  • Guidance to workforce center staff
  • Assessibility probelm-solving
  • Assistive Technology resources
  • Community outreach
  • Information
  • Referral to Social Security work incentives
  • Referral to employment support programs

 

Question

How early may high school students access services through a local Workforce Development Center?

 Answer

High school students must be at least 14 years old to receive youth services provided under WIA. The 14- to 17-year-olds are served through local youth service providers who have demonstrated success in working with this population (http://www.pcfwd.org/contact_youth_cafe.asp).  Youth ages 18-24 may be served either under youth services or classified as adults and served as adults through the centers.

Question

How can schools create powerful partnerships with the local Workforce Development Centers to support the successful transition to post-high school life for students with disabilities?

Answer  

Although not necessarily targeted to individuals with disabilities, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is heavily involved in two strategic efforts that constitute a developing partnership within the workforce development system: (a) placement and support of career coaches in local high schools; and (b) Career Pathways, which connects high school graduates and others to an education continuum aligned with the workforce development system. 

Local superintendents of school divisions are often members of local workforce investment boards.  This provides an excellent forum for participation in the dialogue, formulation of policy, and decision-making regarding workforce development services.  Superintendents are encouraged to participate in such discussions as a way to solidify the local partnership between education and the LWIB.

For more information on the Virginia Workforce Network, or to find Workforce Development Centers and Disability Program Navigators in Regions 2 and 3, visit http://vwn.vccs.edu.