DiNapoli: New York’s workforce development programs lack governance and coordination

New York State has more than 500 workforce development programs offered by nearly two dozen state agencies and public authorities, but there is no functional governing body to coordinate planning, to ensure the needs of New Yorkers are met and resources are used effectively, according to a Department of Labor (DOL) audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli .

“Workforce development is crucial to helping New York recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but programs across the state lack leadership and coordination,” DiNapoli said. “As the lead workforce development agency, the Department of Labor needs to pay greater attention to what is needed to better manage these programs and get our state back to work. New York’s job recovery is lagging behind the rest of the country, and these programs are critical to helping New Yorkers find well-paying jobs and businesses find skilled employees.

Under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), states must have a governance body and must align their workforce development (WFD) programs with developing a shared overall understanding of WFD needs statewide. In New York, this governance body is the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB). The DOL, along with 21 public agencies and authorities, 33 local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs) and 95 One-Stop Career Centres, offer WFD programs and services to meet current and emerging needs, such as training, support services, childcare and transportation assistance. Entities include the New York Workforce Development System.

The SWIB was created to minimize duplication of services, help create strategic workforce development plans, establish local workforce development zones, and develop formulas for the distribution of funds to local areas. However, DiNapoli auditors discovered that the SWIB, which is supposed to include a variety of stakeholders, has been inactive for five years, the last meeting in January 2017. A list provided by DOL in September 2021 lists 40 members, but the dates terms of 30 of them the 40 members expired between February 2014 and August 2017.

The SWIB is also responsible for creating four-year plans to improve New York’s workforce development system, including strategies for effective outreach and improved access. These plans are required under the WIOA and changes must be subject to federal approval. Late submissions may result in delays in federal funding. Due, at least in part, to the lack of a functioning SWIB, the DOL’s most recent plan was submitted in March 2020 and has yet to be approved federally. Officials declined to provide a copy of the plan and initially said they did not know why its approval had been delayed. Later, in response to the audit’s preliminary findings, officials said it was on hold due to the lack of a working SWIB.

State legislation enacted in 2018 requires the department to maintain and annually update a publicly available online database of DCE funding programs (Funding Catalog) that provides eligibility information. and program funding, including tax credits available to eligible employers. DOL last updated the catalog in August 2019.

The auditors developed a catalog database of departmental funding information, identifying programs associated with specific population groups and service categories, and the agencies and authorities that deliver them. This assessment allowed the auditors to identify potential overlaps, duplications, and fragmentation of WFD programs and services offered in the state. The audit also found that New York lacked an integrated data system for case management and reporting of DCE programs and services.

DiNapoli’s audit identified transportation barriers, limited broadband availability, and the number of potential users per career center as potential barriers to accessing WFD programs and services. Twenty-four of the state’s rural counties have only one career center, and two counties — Greene and Hamilton — have none. In contrast, there are only two career centers each in Suffolk County and the Bronx to serve working-age populations of over 900,000 each.

LWDBs must submit a plan to the DOL every four years that addresses their plans to work with local WFD system partners to unite programs and services to support job seekers and job creators. Of the 33 LWDB plan auditors reviewed, 17, covering 36 counties, cited public transportation issues as impeding access to WFD opportunities and services. Nine plans, covering 17 counties, cite broadband availability or access issues.

DiNapoli recommended DOL:

  • Promptly request the replacement of SWIB members who no longer wish and/or can no longer serve to help reconstitute a functioning SWIB in accordance with WIOA requirements.
  • Take the appropriate steps to obtain approval for the 2020 four-year plan and subsequent plans.
  • As soon as possible, update the funding catalog to reflect current program, eligibility and funding information; thereafter, update it on an annual basis.
  • Develop an integrated DCE data system.
  • Address actual and potential overlaps, duplications, gaps and/or fragmentations between WFD programs and services.

Departmental officials described the actions they are taking to address the recommendations. Their full response is included in the audit.

Audit
Overlap, duplication, gaps and/or fragmentation in workforce development programs and services

Database
Workforce Development Dashboard


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Helen D. Jessen