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Business Friendly Environment, Local Decision Making, and Leveraging Partnerships: Texas Workforce System Leadership in Action

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Mar 22, 2011

Neon sign at the Texas History Museum

Who's the Customer?
We recently spoke with Larry Temple, Executive Director of the Texas Workforce Commission, about effective leadership in the workforce system. Larry explained that the Texas Workforce Commission serves three customers: 1) tax payers; 2) employers; and 3) jobseekers. The Texas Workforce Commission strives to balance the needs of each of those three customer groups.

Create a Business Friendly Environment
Larry expressed the importance of the workforce system creating a business friendly environment, both at the local level and witin the regulatory environment. “The state must promote an environment that is consistently business friendly. In order to attract, maintain and grow businesses, the state must be conducive to operating busnesses," he noted.  Effective leaders, he argued, “listen to the needs of businesses and address them.”  Since there is a current lack of confidence in the economy, we must get the business community comfortable to spend funds.  Therefore, we must “limit red tape and lessen the risk to do business.”  This requires the workforce system to truly focus on our business customers and their needs, and to work with legislators to get laws changed to continue to offer that business friendly environment. Texas’ success with this concept has benefited them in this economically hard time.

Go Local
“We can’t assess the needs of each of the businesses without going local,” Larry stated, “so we must connect with local Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) for answers and solutions. We do this by “WIBs moving past working on the day-to-day minutiae and into making decisions about the best investment for training dollars.” 

WIBs do this by prioritizing their limited resources to get the best bang for the buck. Effective WIBs spend their limited training funds to help individuals “bridge their gap” to a job. They only fund training in occupations where there are jobs available.

Although the focus must be local, this is balanced by an increased accountability of the local boards. We maintain indicators that go beyond mandated measures, such as those that measure improvement - better jobs, higher wages, and faster job-placements, for example.

Leverage Partnerships
Effective leaders, according to Larry, must also leverage partnerships. They must work with economic development to allocate resources and provide seed money for new initiatives. By consolidating operations, some local areas have been able to work regionally. Great examples of this were the location of a new Toyota plant in San Antonio and Caterpillar in Seguin. Texas was also able to leverage partnerships when responding to both Hurricane Katrina and Rita. After Hurricane Katrina, individuals evacuated to Texas from Louisiana. Texas staff took UI claims for all of those individuals and also those in Texas impacted by Hurricane Rita. Texas was able to help 66,000 relocated back to Louisiana or to other locations, and helped hundreds of businesses re-find their lost workers.

A key to leveraging partnerships is to find congruence across all programs and funding sources and ask for waivers when the regulations of multiple funding sources are not compatible. Texas has applied and received 20 waivers to existing regulations, thus making working with partners easier. Another key is to identify what resources are out there, and catalogue them, so you don’t duplicate those resources.

But, the true keys to support effective collaboration, according to Larry, is for the state to 1) maintain a good relationship with their federal partners and push back when they take away state flexibility, 2) maintain a good relationship with the local partners and, 3) develop WIBs to maintain a balance between accountability and micromanaging.

These are just a few of the ideas we gleaned from Larry during our conversation.  We will be doing a more comprehensive analysis of all of his insights throughout the course of the project.