Deadline for job services presses states

Deadline for job services presses states

Claire E. House

GCN Staff

With two months to go, states are scrambling to get systems ready to support the one-stop job services required by July 1 under the federal Workforce Investment Act.

Of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. 39 plan to use newly developed one-stop systems and five are modifying existing systems, according to a recent U.S. Labor Department survey.

Seven states'Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin'reported that they are still deciding, although a New Hampshire spokesman told GCN/State & Local that the state will use existing systems to meet the deadline.

Many states that have chosen system plans are just starting to roll them out, and others have yet to begin.

WIA compliance does not directly require one-stop computer systems development; it instead requires states to provide specific one-stop services and submit a detailed report about them to Labor, said Eric Johnson, director for Labor's Office of Career Transition Assistance.

But states generally are viewing new or modified systems as the means to both provide services and report effectively.

The survey cited cost, coordination and time constraints as the main obstacles to meeting the July deadline.

Labor is offering help to the states by co-developing a system they can voluntarily adopt. America's Job Bank, a Labor-state clearinghouse of nationwide job information, this month began deploying part of the One-Stop Operating System (OSOS) for voluntary state adoption.

Five states'Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada, New Jersey and New York'have signed on for the pilot deployment, AJB Service Center director John Novak said. And four more are watching it with interest.

Other states are collaborating on different systems or keeping an eye on particular systems as they get rolling. For example, seven are considering Iowa's ALMIS Common Intake and six Utah's UWORKS.

Utah had originally signed on to use the browser-accessible OSOS but over the last year decided to go its own way.

Utah pulled out for a couple of reasons, said Connie Laws, information technology director of the state Workforce Services Department.

'We were not getting a lot of the information that we needed [about OSOS], and we wanted to have a system that truly covered all of the programs Utah administers,' she said.

The department decided that the timeline wouldn't let Utah add custom pieces, so it is building its own client-server system.

Several other states indicated in the survey that OSOS would not work for them:

•'Rhode Island, Montana and North Dakota said the short timeline limited evaluation and implementation.

•'Colorado said deploying OSOS would require a new communications network.

•'Hawaii cited cost and management expertise concerns.

•'Michigan called OSOS limited and not customized enough.

•'Ohio cited a variety of problems.

Pilot state Kentucky, however, has found advantages with OSOS.

'We don't incur design and development costs, just implementation costs,' Empower Kentucky project director Patrice Carroll said.

She estimated Kentucky's implementation costs at $2.7 million for tasks such as rollout, data conversion, interface building and training. Kentucky's OSOS will replace three major Workforce Development Cabinet systems and connect to three others, she said.

The system's browser interface base will make it easy for employers and state employees to access, she said. OSOS, which was developed with pilot state input, also puts forth a blueprint for the state to re-engineer and streamline processes.

That is likely the biggest challenge to WIA compliance, Novak said. In many cases, states have hundreds of offices, several hundred employees, local partners and nonprofits that provide these services.

'There are a lot of political and organizational issues that need to be worked out and fine-tuned. It's quite an endeavor,' he said.

Some states will continue beyond July 1 to enhance systems specifications partly because Labor'admittedly so'has been issuing regulations bit by bit, Johnson said. He said the department is more interested in seeing that the states are providing one-stop services than assuring that states have their final systems in place.

'Our federal staff in the regional offices are attempting to work with those states that are essentially going to have to jury-rig existing systems, do crosswalks and perhaps manually pull together information from multiple sources to come up with this report,' Johnson said.

Labor does, however, envision a comprehensive system that would support decision-making, point-of-service help, and self-service for employers and job seekers, as well as track and monitor funds and services, Johnson said.

The first report will cover the period from July 1 to Sept. 30. States that do not report will face a loss of federal funding for job services, Johnson said.

'We recognize there probably won't be a perfect system actually for a year as we build in the various components and learn what it is to have ' multiple requirements from different federal agencies all trying to come together in a single, integrated system,' he said.

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