Limited employer engagement, failure to identify and share best practices, and programs operating below capacity are only a few factors causing problems for those trying to help the unemployed in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (WIB) is conducting a survey of agencies that help the unemployed and will use the results to create a framework for Allegheny County.
Cynthia Shields, Senior Project Manager for the Three Rivers WIB, said the board conducted a smaller but similar study earlier this year in attempts to get a grasp on the bigger picture.
“One of the things that came out of that study is that there is a huge amount of system fragmentation that exists across our region in terms of job-seekers, the agencies serving job seekers, and the job opportunities,” Shields said.
More than $300 million is available to the region in the form of workforce development grants. That means nearly $3,000 is spent on each unemployed individual and about $7,500 is spent for every job vacancy. There are currently more than 120 workforce development grants in the region being administered by 20 different agencies. Shields said that makes it difficult to evaluate all of the ongoing programs as a whole and get help to those who are looking for a job.
Shields said the survey is an attempt to bridge the gap between the agencies and the unemployed. “What we’re hoping to do is to start with the survey by getting a grasp on what agencies are out there, what services are they offering, and starting to see that bigger picture of who are all of the players in our workforce development world,” Shields said.
Shields added spending on unemployment programs in western Pennsylvania totals more than all other state spending categories with the exception of welfare, education, and corrections. “When you think about the basic needs that people have, you need a job and you need employment to be able to maintain or to attain any of those things. So, it’s really a well-deserved priority,” Shields said.
Agencies participating in the survey must return their responses by November 23.