The Public Workforce System
A key component of local workforce systems is the public workforce system. As defined by the US Department of Labor, the public workforce system is a network of federal, state, and local government-funded agencies and programs that provide services to workers, job seekers, and employers “to support economic expansion and develop the talent of our nation’s workforce.” The public workforce system provides a variety of services, including job search assistance, career readiness training, college and career navigation, services for out-of-school youth, information and funding for skill training, and services for employers, such as customized training.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) establishes state and local structures for coordinating many of the programs that are part of the public workforce system. The law brings together the core federal programs for skill development for adults and youth; employment services for job seekers; adult education and literacy, including English language; and vocational rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities.
Among the various roles and activities carried out by local workforce development boards is directing federal, state, and local funding to core public workforce programs, with guidance and oversight from state public workforce agencies. They also oversee the more than 2,500 American Job Centers that deliver services to job seekers and employers in local communities. Workforce development board members are required to include the business community as well as representation from local community colleges, other training providers, elected officials, and workforce program leaders to ensure that current skill needs of local businesses are communicated to relevant training programs. Workforce development boards coordinate with a range of other publicly funded programs, such as child care assistance, subsidized housing, and career and technical education.
Other publicly funded workforce development programs include federal funds for employment programs through Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP; and the Employment and Training program, as well as federal funds for career and technical education through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act. Additionally, publicly funded community colleges are part of the public workforce system and provide numerous credit and noncredit programs that improve workers' skills. Federal financial aid programs such as the Pell grant program and federal loan programs also provide funding to individuals to support skill development. There are numerous other programs and initiatives that receive state and local funds and are part of the public workforce system. Coordination between public workforce system programs funded directly under WIOA and other publicly funded workforce development programs varies significantly by state and locality.