Workforce Development Center: a collaborative effort in Waukesha County.

Author:Tessmann, Cary

Nine public and private agencies combined their resources to form a one-stop shop for citizens requiring a wide variety of social services and assistance; the result - more efficient service delivery and increased customer satisfaction.

The GFOA presents its Louisville Award for Financial Innovation to an applicant who introduces a new concept or technique with enduring value to the government finance profession. The Louisville Award, presented as part of the Awards for Excellence Program in recognition of an exceptional accomplishment, is GFOA's most prestigious and rare award. The Waukesha County Workforce Development Center, which is discussed in this article, received the Louisville Award in 1996. It was the fifth Louisville Award bestowed since the beginning of the program in 1980.

How do multiple governmental and other public and private entities work effectively together and efficiently share resources? This question of collaboration is being asked more frequently due to limited resources and as needs for fundamental change in working relationships are recognized. A look at the Waukesha County Workforce Development Center provides an example of how nine public and private agencies, with assistance from a private foundation, successfully worked together and shared resources with a common purpose at a single location. This article explores the factors that resulted in this collaborative effort.

Needed: A One-stop Shop

Waukesha County, located in southeastern Wisconsin, has been one of the fastest growing counties in the state, resulting in high economic development and low levels of unemployment. In the past 10 years the population increased 14 percent, the labor force increased 24.1 percent, and the number of jobs increased 47 percent.

Because of this rapid growth, employers encountered a continuing problem with an inadequate supply of entry-level and skilled workers. At the same time, approximately 1,200 families were receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Many high school and college students were needing assistance to develop job skills and find work. Waukesha County and Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) were looking for opportunities to partner with private agencies wherever possible.

In order to receive public assistance, a customer usually had to go from one agency to another, which caused delays or duplication of services while adding to the frustration and transportation costs of customers. For example, a single mother receiving AFDC needed to go to the county department of health and human services to see an economic assistance worker to apply for welfare benefits and a child support worker to establish paternity and child support payments of the noncustodial parent. In order to be eligible for AFDC, she needed to participate in a work program, which required seeing another worker as well as enrolling in classes or seeking a job. If she enrolled in classes, she saw someone from WCTC; if she elected to seek a job, she saw someone from either the state or private job service agency; if she required assistance in paying for child or transportation costs, she saw still another worker at the county health and human services department. All of these agencies were located at different sites, necessitating the need for transportation and a number of separate appointments.

In 1992, the idea of a one-stop shop was proposed. Nine public and private agencies were invited to participate in the Workforce Development Center:

* Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services,

* Waukesha County Technical College,

* Wisconsin Job Service,

* Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Private Industry Council,

* Waukesha County Economic Development Corporation,

* Partners for Education,

* Kaiser Employment Group,

* La Casa de Esperanza, and

* the AFL-CIO.

A Workforce Development Center management team, consisting of a representative from each of the nine agencies, was created. The management team worked to resolve "turf issues" among the agencies and reduce distrust and self-promotion. Focusing on a common mission and the customer, the team began the process of site and facility planning and establishing service-delivery goals.

A Vision for the Center

In December 1992, a memorandum of understanding was developed between the nine agencies, which included the mission statement and objectives to be accomplished. The mission of the Workforce Development Center is to advance the economic well-being of the region by developing and maintaining a quality workforce and by serving as the focal point for local and regional workforce development initiatives. This is to be achieved through the co-location and integration of employment, training, education, and economic development services for job seekers, workers, and employers.

The objectives of the Workforce Development Center are the following:

* to empower job seekers in actively achieving long-term economic self-sufficiency;

* to assist employers in meeting their present and future workforce needs;

* to meet participants' temporary economic and support service needs and strengthen the connection between economic assistance and preparing for work-related self-sufficiency;

* to deliver necessary services in...

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