National Association of Workforce Boards Annual Conference – Washington DC: Advancing Workforce Innovation

Ray Eibel ·

For the past twelve years I have had the pleasure of representing EDSI at the annual National Association of Workforce Boards Conference in Washington, D.C. This year, Terri Kaufman, Ken Mall and I had the opportunity to attend this premier event where workforce development professionals and leaders in business, government, labor and education gather to discuss the current state of our nation's workforce system and consider the goals and policy framework affecting the future of human capital development. Although the final numbers are not in, over 1,200 people registered for the conference which far exceeds last year’s attendance.

Why do we exhibit at events like this? For one reason, it is a learning opportunity for us, especially with the implementation of WIOA right around the corner. Another reason to attend is the opportunity to talk with many of our current customers over the three-day period. Of course, we also appreciate the opportunity to talk with Workforce Board Executive Directors and board members in areas where we currently do not have contracts to learn and discuss best practices.

This year’s opening speaker was none other than Tom Perez, Secretary of the US Department of Labor. I was very glad to hear that Secretary Perez focused on the need for employer-focused training to assist in closing the skill gap. He spoke in detail about training being the number one concern for almost all employers and put an intense emphasis on developing an increased understanding of data-driven regional approaches to create sector strategies and coordinated partnerships. Consistent with the Secretary’s message, our own Ken Mall was part of a panel discussion about the skilled worker shortages plaguing the transportation industry.

Based on the people we talked with, the workforce board attendees came away from the conference looking for ways to incorporate industry partnerships, incumbent worker training, on the job training programs and youth programs that lead to steady employment. The good news is that EDSI has numerous programs to meet this demand.

This conference generated a very positive energy; something I hadn’t felt in recent years when unemployment was high and clear direction seemed to be lacking. Perhaps it has something to do with WIOA.

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