The success of the nation's workforce development system rests on the ability to form, maintain, and leverage a variety of partnerships under the shared vision of serving workers and employers. This blog entry from Washington State highlights one of those partnerships.  

In the State of Washington, we pride ourselves in collaborating with key stakeholders to construct quality petitions through eligibility investigations. Employment Security Department (ESD) leads the TAA program for our state.  One of our keys to success is that we have built a long-lasting relationship with the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC).  WSLC is dedicated to advocating for working Washington families.  They have established themselves as an entity that acts as a liaison to the workforce system for both union and non-union workers. As partners we work in tandem with our state Rapid Response teams to connect quickly with workers that have recently been notified of a layoff.  Together we offer direct worker support, introducing impacted workers to the variety of state and federal programs available to assist them with their goal of becoming re-employed. 

ESD and WSLC are the eyes and ears of the initial Trade investigation.  We review WARN notices, work with local workforce development areas, keep tabs on media reporting and receive word of mouth referrals from the one-stop center partners throughout the state.  Over time, we discovered that the most efficient way to complete a quality petition is to begin by building relationships with workers, key leaders and union representatives from the impacted firm. 

There were challenges in the beginning as we learned to work with each other. Initially, we struggled a bit getting on the same page when it came to communication to the workers. Both parties had the customer in the front of mind, however the way we reached our goal was by moving down different pathways.  The WSLC explained TAA services from the workers perspective, advocating for them passionately and wanting to convey the value of the benefits the program offers.  From the program side, our messaging highlighted benefits while focusing on program requirements to ensure customers understood how to access services through eligibility and deadlines. This caused some heartache as customers felt entitled to program services but didn’t realize the full scope of how to access those services.  To help remedy this, we spent time educating WSLC staff on the program nuances, which in turn allowed them to tailor their messaging to customers in a way that supported their passion while delivering program requirements. Once WSLC got more familiar with the requirements and we started working on finding the “yes” for the workers, that is when things really started working well.

Leveraging WSLC workforce staff ensures that workers who are unfamiliar with workforce development programs feel supported by the worker advocacy WSLC offers.  Building genuine trust with impacted workers increases our ability to obtain details critical to the success of a petition.

WSLC workforce development department staff are active members of our statewide Rapid Response team, along with the TAA Coordinator and WIOA Title I partners.  Rapid Response events serve as a point for initial engagement with workers, allowing us to build rapport early in the process.  If the impact is known to be trade related, an in-depth TAA overview is provided.  We’ve also learned that if the impact is not confirmed to be trade related, providing a high-level overview of the TAA program increases overall awareness and the likeliness that workers will initiate one-on-one conversations with us to learn more about eligibility criteria.  This method increases the number of credible leads we receive on trade-related impacts, allowing us to be more strategic with our petition investigation efforts.

Our TAA program success hinges on the recognition that ESD and WSLC are working towards a common goal of helping workers in our communities continue on their employment pathway.