One component of the workforce development system focuses on helping people identify and apply for jobs. This assistance includes providing job listings and offering workshops about resume writing and interview skills.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) coordinates federal workforce development programs and activities in several thousand one-stop career centers. Services include self-service access to electronic databases; staff support for services such as individual employment plan development, counseling, job referrals, and placement assistance; and access to training services to help workers acquire or upgrade job skills. WIOA includes a number of provisions of importance to older workers, including requiring that states develop specific plans for serving older people and report program data by age. More specifically, WIOA:
- identifies individuals barriers to employment —in particular individuals age 55 and older, the long-term unemployed, displaced homemakers, and persons with disabilities—to whom WIOA services should be targeted;
- directs states to develop plans on how they will serve these groups and report how they have been served.
- improves services to people with disabilities, many of whom are older;
- maintains and broadens state flexibility on supportive services, without which many older people cannot work;
- calls for performance indicators to be disaggregated by age, which should make it easier to see how older workers fare under WIOA programs; and
- requires that administrative reports on individuals with barriers to employment be made public.
In addition, WIOA will strengthen and streamline membership on the state and local workforce development boards that will implement WIOA as they did the Workforce Investment Act. It will also focus workforce development collaboration on the needs of regional economies and promote career pathways and sector partnerships to foster employment in in-demand jobs. The law emphasizes the importance of having American Job Centers (one-stop career centers) create strong ties with employers by requiring Workforce Investment Boards to identify strategies for engaging employers.
Other public workforce programs focus specifically on older people.
- The Senior Community Service Employment Program provides part-time public-service employment and job placement assistance for low-income people age 55 and older with funds appropriated under the Older Americans Act.
- Trade Adjustment Assistance aids workers who have lost their jobs as a result of increased imports or movement of jobs offshore. Affected workers may be eligible for a variety of services, including training. Under the Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance program, older workers may be eligible for a wage subsidy if they accept a job with lower wages than they had received at previous jobs.
Compared with other advanced economies, the U.S. underperforms in its efforts to help displaced workers transition back into the labor force. Greater investment in retraining and other forms of transition assistance are needed to reintegrate workers back into the labor market.
JOB SEARCH ASSISTANCE AND JOB PLACEMENT: Policy
Congress, federal policymakers, and the states should ensure that the workforce development system is accessible to and meets the needs of a diverse population of older workers and job-seekers. Increased investment should be made in transition assistance programs and efforts to help displaced workers regain employment. This diversity includes differences in education, experience, occupational background, employment barriers, disabilities, geographic and transportation barriers as well as gender, race, ethnicity, language, and cultural background. Individuals who face barriers in their efforts to find work should receive specialized attention and services that meet their needs.
Services offered by workforce development centers
Congress, federal policymakers, and the states should require workforce development centers to provide in-person counseling, accurate guidance about job search strategies, and job training programs, as well as facilitate connections with appropriate supportive services. This assistance should be tailored to the needs of older workers.
Workforce development centers must:
- provide older workers and job-seekers with individualized in-person counseling, services, and navigation assistance by staff who are knowledgeable about and trained in cultural competencies, the needs and circumstances of older workers, the needs of local employers, and how to move older workers to employment.
- assist unemployed workers early in their episode of unemployment;
- develop relationships with local employers, including temporary employment agencies;
- identify barriers to training and employment and connect older job-seekers to appropriate supportive services such as transportation; literacy (including digital literacy), numeracy, and basic education; English language classes; behavioral competencies; mental health counseling; substance abuse counseling; domestic violence counseling; information about securing health insurance; and caregiving support.
Helping displaced workers
Policymakers should improve policies and programs intended to help workers who are displaced by off-shoring, automation, outsourcing, and other major actions or events that reduce jobs. Programs designed to help such workers transition to new types of work need to be more effective and responsive than current programs to the variety and scale of the needs of displaced workers.
Congress should reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance and enhance its benefits and services adequately to serve those whose jobs have been lost to trade and offshoring.
Congress and the states should provide sufficient funding for the workforce development system, including workforce development centers, Senior Community Service Employment Program, Trade Adjustment Assistance, and subsidized employment programs.
The public workforce development system should be funded at levels sufficient to ensure that job centers have adequately trained staff, and sufficient staff and resources to serve the needs of older workers and others who face barriers in their efforts to find work.
Congress should increase funding for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) as part of the Older Americans Act. SCSEP should be administered by the Department of Labor and funded separately from the workforce development system under WIOA.
The federal government should provide funds to support subsidized employment programs that engage the private sector. These opportunities should be structured to protect workers from exploitation, require employers to abide by federal and state wage and hour laws, and prohibit the displacement of full-time work opportunities.
Evaluation and accountability
Federal and state policymakers should evaluate the effectiveness of publicly funded workforce development programs by making use of existing data on program participation and outcomes and collecting additional data as needed. These data should be collected and reported by age, as required by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. Program evaluation criteria should not inadvertently penalize workforce development centers for serving older workers and other individuals with barriers to employment, even inadvertently.
To facilitate interagency collaboration and effectiveness, workforce development centers and their partners that identify possible patterns and practices of employment discrimination or other labor law violations, based on the experiences of the workers who utilize their services, should share that information with appropriate federal and state agencies.
Representation of older workers
Governors should require Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) to solicit input from representatives of organizations serving or advocating on behalf of older workers, include them on WIBs and other advisory and decisionmaking bodies, and engage them in the development of the state plan required by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act.