A Business-First Workforce System

In the fall of 2014, the nation's workforce system received a significant update with the new, bi-partisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA replaces the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which was previously signed into law in 1998. Under the previous law, One-Stop Career Centers were established in all states. These career centers encouraged the utilization of multiple organizations, or “partners”, operating out of each career center to help maximize the available resources for job seekers and employers. The act also provided educational grants/scholarships for low-income Adults, Dislocated Workers, and Youth.

Through the new WIOA, most of the strengths from WIA are retained, including local Workforce Investment/ Development Boards that provide oversight to each region's One-Stop Career Center network (in Kentucky, these centers are called Kentucky Career Centers or KCC). There are many more changes in WIOA, including the streamlining of career services for Dislocated Workers and expanded services for younger job seekers. However, one of the most significant additions with WIOA is the focus on services to businesses. WIOA places a much stronger emphasis on meeting employer needs, and will include performance indicators surrounding that goal. Nationally, this focus will support a business-first approach to workforce development.

In terms of services to businesses and collective workforce impact, Northern Kentucky is ahead of the game. The Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (WIB) oversees the six Kentucky Career Centers in Covington, Florence, Carrollton, Dry Ridge, Falmouth, and at the NKY/ Greater Cincinnati Airport. The Board consists of leaders from local businesses, economic development, education, labor, and non-profit organizations. Northern Kentucky’s WIB was the first in the state to receive the “High-Impact Workforce Board” designation by the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board. The Northern Kentucky WIB was also the first in the state to name the employer as the primary customer of the local Kentucky Career Centers and to implement a targeted, high-demand industry sector approach to the local workforce system. But perhaps the most significant feature of the local WIB is their emphasis on Return on Investment and continuous quality improvement. That approach is working! Just last year, out of the 21,133 individuals who accessed one of the local Kentucky Career Centers, 12,452 received employment. Furthermore, 83% of those individuals kept a job for at least 6 months. Over 4,000 employer contacts were made by the career center’s Business Services Team, over 3,800 new jobs were posted with the career center, and over 80 job fairs and hiring events were conducted. The WIB is making a huge regional economic impact as well. See the recent River City News article providing details on that economic impact- http://rcnky.com/articles/2015/03/11/study-had-19-billion-impact-northern-kentucky-1-year

The WIB and Kentucky Career Center demonstrate the benefits of results-focused leadership, accountability, and collective impact by maximizing local workforce resources and collaborating with businesses and government. While some organizations shy away from working with government, the Northern Kentucky WIB and Kentucky Career Center help bring the public and private sectors together to achieve optimal utilization of regional workforce resources and reduce duplication of services/ overlap. For local job seekers and employers, these strategies ultimately help strengthen our local talent pipeline and promote business retention and expansion.

Jason Ashbrook serves as the Director of the Kentucky Career Center; Barbara Stewart serves as the Director of the Northern KY WIB. For more information on the Kentucky Career Center and Northern KY Workforce Investment Board, visit www.nkcareercenter.org.


The Kentucky Career Center connects job seekers to career opportunities and helps businesses meet their workforce needs.


Kentucky Career Center provides local businesses with easy access to workforce development resources. Contact our Business Services Team to get started.


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