Serving WIOA Youth

One of the biggest changes per WIOA is to the Youth program, and it has to do with how program dollars are directed to different types of customers.

WIA required that the public workforce system spend at least 30% of Youth program dollars on out-of-school youth. WIOA raises that to 75% beginning this year.

An out-of-school youth is someone who dropped out of school or who graduated high school but doesn’t have the basic skills needed to get or keep a job. 

There’s no arguing the idea. If you have limited funds then you have to focus on something, and those with the most to gain is a good place. The catch is, that’s a huge increase for many states. Luckily though, Montana is already in a pretty good place. The WIOA Youth program here is operated by non-state providers who all do a good job. And last year, 67% of their customers were out-of-school.

The other challenge is in reaching this population. Out-of-school means harder to find, harder to engage, and many times harder to serve given their situations. But the program’s success hasn’t come by only targeting high school dropouts.

Another positive for Montana is that our high school dropout rate is low, just 3.4% last year compared to the national average of 6.5%. Sure, that makes for a smaller pool for a Youth program to target, but that’s a the kind of problem you want. And while this is a potential challenge across many states, Montana has figured out ways to work around it and still be successful.

Thanks to all our WIOA Youth providers for the great work you do!! #KeepItUp

The Unemployment Rate

Unemployment rates are fascinating: what they are, what they mean, and how they’re calculated. In the workforce development word, they are a leading indicator of economic health and something we put a lot of time and energy into creating and understanding.

DLI’s Chief Economist Barb Wagner recently published a great article explain in easy-to-follow terms how this number comes to be. It’s a bit long, but explaining something as complicated as this can’t be done in three sentences. If you have even a passing curiosity take a few minutes to read it. You’ll appreciate the time spent.

Click the banner below to see the article.


On a related note, the Urban Institute publishes a set of charts called the State Economic Monitor that track monthly state unemployment information. They’re pretty easy to use and understand: Have a look.

Job Seeker or Job Finder?

How many times do you remember hearing parents/teachers/coaches say “it’s all about your attitude!” If you’re like me, so many that I eventually just rolled my eyes and tuned out. And while I’ll admit that, I will also concede that truer words were never spoken.

Attitude ties to just about everything we do in life, including looking for a job. And maintaining a positive one can be THE most challenging aspect of looking for a job, as few other undertakings can force you to question even your own personal worth.

One of my first jobs was teaching job search classes to folks who were down on their luck. It was hard but rewarding work where I spent most of my time talking about self-worth, dealing with rejection, and overall positive attitude, because that’s what they really needed to hear (though imagine my horror at realizing I had become one of those “son, it’s all about your attitude” people).

Years later this point came home again while listening to a co-worker talk to a group of people who had just been laid off. She challenge them all to “…be a job finder, not a job seeker. Because you’re not just searching for a job, you’re going to FIND a job.” It’s a goofy but yet so clear message.

Attitude goes many ways: how you perceive others; how they perceive you; how you perceive yourself. Reset your expectations: Get out there and be a job finder!

The Road to Success

Things change, they just do. It’s one of the few things you can count on. And as we all know change isn’t  limited to the weather, franchise basketball players or the economy. It touches everything.

The best path to individual success and prosperity is no different. This road, and our understanding of it, has drastically evolved over decades. And while it’s talked about a lot, too often it becomes an argument over “either/or” rather than a discussion about “and.”

We’re talking about the 1960’s “College For All” model vs. the 2010’s “Education + Technical Training” model.

It used to be that going to college was seen as THE way to get a better paying, and sometimes better all around, job. But like everything else, that’s changed. Our economy has changed and today there are many pathways to individual prosperity, almost all of which do or can or should include college education, just maybe not in the same way it was thought about 50 years ago.

To be clear, it’s not about college or no college. It’s about both. We’re saying the best path today to individual success and prosperity is college AND technical training: They are not mutually exclusive.

Kevin Fleming, an economist with Telos Educational Services, took to video to make this case, and three years later his message still stands strong.

Please take 9 minutes and watch the video. If it doesn’t sell you, you’ll at least better understand the other perspective.


What’s In A Posted Pay Rate?

If you’re an employer trying to fill a vacancy, likely a lot of visibility.

It’s an age-old debate between those posting jobs and those seeking them. One we hear about frequently. So we decided to do our own research using our state job matching system and the jobs and job seekers it contains. What we found was staggering.

We looked at one week in May’s total new job listings, about 1200 jobs. Of those:

  • 16% (200 jobs) listed pay (at least a pay range).
    • These jobs got an average of 37 hits (views) per job and 10 people applying.
  • 84% (1000 jobs) did not.
    • These jobs got an average of 13 hits (views) per job and 3 people applying.

Talking about pay up front may pre-set job seeker expectations and could potentially cost employers a bit more. But there’s no denying the audience it brings. And in today’s tight labor market, that audience can make all the difference.

Employers, Education and the Job Market

With Montana anticipating a worker shortage in the coming years, and with the costs of education continuing to rise, MT DLI and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education have joined forces to try to better understand how workforce and education intersect.

This effort will ensure that workforce training systems are aligned with employer needs and our dynamic and expanding economy.

It will help students progress through educational programs and join the labor market more quickly and efficiently, thereby saving everyone money.

It will also help Montana understand where state efforts should be focused to ensure there is a pipeline of relevantly skilled workers to meet current and future labor demands.

Missoula College recently volunteered to be the first case study, curious to understand how their students fared in the job market after completing their studies. The final report is fascinating and shows Missoula College doing a good job but with room to improve (ex. Figure 4.2 below).

But the win here is not the good or bad assessment of the current state. The real win, for all Montanans, is seeing colleges and employers, education and labor coming together and accepting the relevancy-factor this information provides, agreeing to share their data, and collaboratively working today to address tomorrow’s workforce needs.


JMG IGNITE Conference-2016

Jobs for Montana’s Graduates (JMG) wrapped up their spring conference in Billings last week and what a great event. There were about 320 attendees including students and teachers, the Governor, the Montana National Guard, private sector employers and local community partners. It’s a great program with passionate supporters.

JMG is our state version of Jobs for American’s Graduates, an in-school program that supports and encourages students to think about themselves, their communities and their futures. Montana has a strong program, active in 56 schools across the state with almost 1000 participating students.

But the most amazing part of the whole thing were the students. These folks have thought about their futures and developed career plans. They can articulate who they are and what they want. And they tell their personal success stories in a way that makes you care about and want to help them. It’s easy to forget they’re still just kids.

The most moving for me personally was a high school senior we met who is living on her own, working full-time AND going to high school. With so many available reasons/excuses to ditch she was still there because “I want to be able to be proud of myself.  AND I want to be the first person in my family to go to college.” That’s moxy I couldn’t touch when I was that age.

A big THANK YOU to all the JMG Career Specialists; to state administrators and corporate & community partners for their ongoing and invaluable support; and congratulations to all the JMG students. You’re all a very special bunch!

P.S. Among the many activities and competitions for students was a poster challenge. They were all great but this one summarized the entire event for me.

JMG Poster

2016 Montana State Employers’ Council Awards

Last week the Montana State Employers’ Council (MSEC) met with their Job Service Employment Councils (JSECs) and MTDLI’s Business Services group in Havre. This annual business conference brings together private sector employers, education, and public service partners to discuss employer needs, labor market trends, engagement and service strategies and collaboration opportunities to help government better serve its customers.

The meeting was good and everyone walked away with something. But the best part is always the awards portion where MSEC takes a moment to recognize employers and individuals for outstanding efforts to their employees, their communities, and the citizens of the great state of Montana.

The 2016 award winners are:

Please join me in congratulating all the winners. Without their care and commitment we could not accomplish all that we do. Thank you, and keep up the great work!

6 Things All Students Should Know

12.1When I was in school I never darkened the door of my career guidance counselor. It wasn’t for any real reason other than I didn’t understand how they could help me – no one ever took the time to explain it.

Part of the job of the public workforce system now, along with our Education partners, is to make sure students today never end up in that same boat. And to that end there are six things we want to make sure all students know.

  1.  A career center exists – Most students go to college so that they can get a good job after they graduate. Not checking out the center dedicated to supporting this goal is the same as paying for a class and never actually attending. And even more important is understanding there are multiple pathways to prosperity.
  2. You won’t be judged – The staff working in career centers – many of whom are students themselves – recognize that the career exploration and preparation process is new to you and are happy to help you start at the beginning.
  3. Professional skills take practice – Resume writing, interview prep, career assessment, these skills are different than the ones required to succeed in a classroom and require ongoing training and practice. The earlier you start, the more time you have to build confidence.
  4. Professional prep and development is your responsibility – You have the most on the line so direct your efforts accordingly. No one can figure out what you want to do but you.
  5. Networking can make all the difference – few things can have an impact like developing relationships with employers and learning how to leverage them. And campus career centers are hot targets for recruiting employers.
  6. Career guidance includes tangible assistance like:
    1. providing skills and personality tests to help you fully understand your interests, strengths and weaknesses.
    2. helping you determine and set real and realistic career goals.
    3. identifying choice careers.
    4. providing educational support and guidance.
    5. helping with your job search.

If you’re a student, go see your counselor today. With SO MANY pathways to prosperity and so many options to offset education costs you’ll be glad you did.

P.S. Your local Job Service Office also offers many of the same services, with an emphasis on helping all job seekers and not just students. If you’re looking for a job, training or education to get a job, or information about what careers you might choose and why, go see them today. You’ll ALSO be glad you did.


Montana Unemployment

US Unemp 2015Lower unemployment rates generally mean good things – that the economy is strong and most people who want to work are. Montana has always had lower unemployment than the nation, and generally lower than many other states. [This is indicated on the map – the bigger the dot, the higher the unemployment].

Montana ended 2015 with a t 4.1% unemployment rate compared to the national rate of 4.8%. And all the major labor areas in the state are under that as well; Missoula at 4.0%, Great Falls at 4.1%, and Billings at 3.3%.

At the end of 2015, Ames, Iowa had the lowest unemployment in the country at 2.2%, while El Centro, CA had the highest at 19.3%. Atlantic City, NJ had the largest overall decrease in 2015 dropping 3.4%. And Farmington, NM had the largest overall increase at 2.2%.

Speaking of wanting to work, there’s continuing good news there too. At the end of 2015 the number of people looking for a job compared to the number of jobs available was 1.4 to 1. Compare that to the height of the recession in 2009 when it was about 7 to 1 and it’s easy to understand why.