DOL Career Centers Need to Market to Employers, SHRM Says

By Roy Maurer Jun 26, 2015

The Department of Labor (DOL) should improve its marketing outreach for its One-Stop Career Centers designed to connect employers and job seekers at the local level, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and its affiliate the Council for Global Immigration.

SHRM made the recommendations in comments submitted to the DOL June 15, 2015, as the department implements the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a comprehensive set of reforms to the public workforce system signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014.

“We agree with WIOA’s goal of improving job and career options for our nation’s workers through an integrated system that links the skills of job seekers to the needs of business,” said Mike Aitken, vice president of government affairs at SHRM. “[We] believe successful partnerships between employers and local intermediaries such as one-stops to address skill needs are most likely to succeed if the partnership is demand-driven and focused on the needs of employers in the local community,” he said.

The implementation of the revamped law offers a great opportunity for “improved promotion of available services and outreach to local businesses,” Aitken said. “Many employers view the public workforce system as serving individual job seekers and are unaware of the various resources and services available to employers.”

SHRM would especially like to see the DOL increase its promotion of training services that are available to employers. “This is important because recent SHRM research suggests a downturn in company investments in many forms of job training. Smaller employers and employers in regionally disconnected areas, in particular, could benefit from partnering with the local one-stop to assist with training needs,” according to Aitken.

SHRM surveyed its members who interact with the public workforce system and found that they were most likely to utilize the system to post job openings and to advertise their presence at local job fairs. Members were less likely to utilize the individualized training accounts and many were unaware that training services existed in their communities.

Another challenge SHRM members identified was that the current system did not effectively respond to the needs of employers. Respondents said that the system often produces a multitude of applicants, few of which are actually qualified for the available positions. “The need to improve applicant screening is one of the top challenges our members face when using the current system,” Aitken said. “According to HR professionals, applicants sometimes do not show up for their interviews and ignore instructions for the application process, leading to frustration for employers. Effectively pre-screening candidates for the positions might ensure that applicants are truly interested in the opportunity and would improve the relationship and reliability of the system in the eyes of employers.”

SHRM offered the following recommendations to improve the system:

Establish a single point of contact. The DOL should encourage a single point of contact for employers at each one-stop to facilitate connections with employers. “Some regions in the country have established a designated business liaison but clearly identifying a staff person for this function could benefit all one-stops,” Aitken said. SHRM members reported not being clear about who they should be working with in the system. One respondent said a liaison should “understand employer needs … and the system shouldn’t try to fit the needs of business into a government program, but instead should focus on fitting government programs to meet the needs of employers.”

Meet employers where they are. The one-stop staff should conduct outreach with local employers to make connections, including reaching out to one of more than 575 local SHRM chapters within the United States. Nearly every chapter has a designated Workforce Readiness Advocate. One-stop staff could request to present at chapter meetings and SHRM members could train staff on how to coordinate with employers.

SHRM’s partnership with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense office established to promote cooperation and understanding between military service members and their civilian employers, is a prime model for connecting with employer groups at the local level that could be adapted for use by local one-stops.

“Early in our partnership with ESGR, SHRM challenged all of our state councils and chapters to sign the ESGR Statement of Support. The response was tremendous and served as a way to educate SHRM chapters and state councils about ESGR and its services for employers, as well as develop excitement for working together,” Aitken said. Once linkage was established between SHRM members and ESGR and its mission, local ESGR volunteers regularly attended local SHRM chapter meetings, developed relationships and served as a resource for employers with hiring needs. ESGR also regularly exhibits at both national and state SHRM conferences.

Connect employers to services based on identified employer needs. “Employers benefit from demand-driven services from the local one-stop to address their talent management needs,” Aitken said. When asked about training, SHRM members reported that they would benefit greatly if their local one-stop better understood the industry training needs in the local economy and effectively partnered with industry. Employers may be seeking assistance with on-the-job training, or access to incumbent worker training. “One-stops should already be acting as mediators to connect employers with local education and training providers,” Aitken said. “However, many SHRM members do not report receiving this service and would find it valuable.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy


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