Investing in America’s Workforce

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By Jason Keller

Final revisions to the Interagency Questions and Answers (Q and A’s) Regarding Community Reinvestment were recently released[1] by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). This blog focuses on changes to the definition of community development, specifically references to workforce development or other job training programs for low- or moderate-income (LMI) or unemployed persons as qualified activities. While, activities creating and retaining jobs have long been part of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), this revision offers financial institutions an opportunity to focus on improving access for LMI persons to jobs or job training or other workforce development programs (such as internships or apprenticeships).

As a result of this change, as well as other national developments including the release of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) in July 2014,[2] the Federal Reserve System launched Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers. This collaborative effort between the Federal Reserve System, the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at the University of Texas at Austin, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research seeks to strengthen the nation’s economic potential by approaching workforce development efforts as investments, rather than the delivery of social services. This initiative will connect businesses, government, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners to rethink policy and investments, attract new resources, and improve economic mobility for workers.

As part of this initiative, Reserve Banks hosted more than 50 regional roundtables around the country during spring 2017. These events brought together nonprofits, bankers, local business owners, government agencies, community development practitioners, researchers, philanthropists, and others to discuss two key questions:

  1. What opportunities for investment in workforce development exist and what would make workforce development more investable?
  2. How can workforce development efforts be better evaluated?

Five sessions[3] were hosted across the Seventh District by the Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Division at Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. These sessions convened more than 60 local and regional experts in workforce development from both urban and rural settings to discuss desirable outcomes, barriers to greater investment in workforce development, as well as evidence-based tools for analysis. While the sessions differed in attendee backgrounds and geographies, consistency was seen in the need for more industry-led/private sector employer-driven workforce training; a reimagined K-12 educational system that builds the skills needed for today’s technology-driven workplace; and a refocused effort to better understand the needs of millennial, older, minority, and immigrant workers. The valuable information received from these sessions, as well as those held in other regions, is currently being summarized by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, with the key themes released this summer.

In the interim, the Investing in America’s Workforce website details how the Federal Reserve System is connecting with partners to hear the current challenges and opportunities for workers and employers and to see examples of how organizations are working together to leverage better investment in workforce systems. The resource center features publications on topics in workforce development, including Engaging Workforce Development – A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations, authored by the Federal Reserve Banks of Kansas City and Dallas. This document is designed to give financial institutions, and organizations interested in partnering with them, tools and information to engage in workforce development activities in ways that may help fulfill obligations under the CRA.

Finally, a Capstone Conference will be held in Austin, Texas, October 4-6, 2017, and a forthcoming volume of essays will highlight successful local and regional research and analysis on related workforce development efforts.

Check back often for updates on the initiative and new research on employment, workforce development, education, and training from around the Federal Reserve System. Join the conversation on Twitter: @InvestInWork; #InvestInWork.

For more information on this initiative and other workforce development and human capital topics, please contact Jason Keller, economic development director within CDPS, at Jason.Keller@chi.frb.org.

[1] See https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/07/25.
[2] See https://www.doleta.gov/WIOA/Overview.cfm.
[3] Sessions were held in Springfield, IL (2); Milwaukee, WI; Des Moines, IA; and Fort Wayne, IN.
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