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|LABI pitches plan to revamp workforce development|
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry hopes to have legislation approved in the upcoming regular legislative session that would revamp the state Department of Labor to give local communities more control over workforce development.
LABI's proposal calls for redesigning the Department of Labor and changing its name to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. The five offices that currently exist in the Department of Labor would continue to function in their current role, according to the LABI proposal.
"But they would see some of their functions delegated down to local workforce investment boards," according to Jim Patterson, LABI's vice president of governmental relations.
Patterson spoke at a luncheon meeting Tuesday at the Monroe Civic Center.
"We have not allowed workforce investment boards the latitude, the funding and the power to make things happen for you locally like it should," Patterson said.
Under LABI's proposal, local workforce investment boards would be the point of contact for the business community. The boards would oversee the programs, develop workforce initiatives and govern how workforce needs are met in each community, Patterson said.
Each workforce investment board would be charged with establishing and operating localized programs relative to education, training and employment for its area. The boards would be responsible for administering those programs as well as the one-stop career centers in each district.
The Workforce Commission would verify that the boards are meeting general benchmarks for performance. It would also be the fiscal manager for the system, and it would issue block grants to fund the programs the boards establish, Patterson said.
"You would see a lot of what happens in Baton Rouge, start happening here locally," Patterson said.
That includes assessing the business community's needs and determining what programs could best address those needs."
LABI's proposal is similar to legislation that was passed in Texas about a decade ago.
"Texas passed a law that brought three departments together into one workforce commission," Patterson continued. "This legislation is something we've been working on for almost two years now in terms of developing the concept and a draft, which we hope the new governor and his administration will support."
"This is something that's very unusual for this state to even think about, but we believe the time is now," he said.
Patterson said Texas saw great success by converting to the new system.
"They saw the use of their system rise from around five percent, which is probably what it is in Louisiana now, to about 40 percent," Patterson said. "They simply made it a lot more accessible to employers and they made a system that would deliver based on the market needs, not on the basis of what the bureaucrats wanted to do at a particular time."
"By giving local control and flexibility to local entities to manage this, they found that the results were far better that in the past," Patterson said. "Businesses were a lot more engaged than in the past and ultimately they saw a way to make it more relevant in terms of helping businesses reduce their cost and get better qualified workers."
If the LABI-backed legislation is approved by the Legislature, the current secretary of labor would become the commission's executive director. He would have up to one year to bring the various programs into the new commission.
The LABI proposal also calls for 80 percent of the funding that is currently earmarked for the current system redirected to local workforce investment boards.