Workforce Development Needs More Work
Chronic Unemployment Remains a Problem
Mayor Agrees to Recommended Changes
(Denver) “We must act more vigorously to bring our unemployment rate down. We must do better at matching jobs to our chronically unemployed,” said Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher regarding an audit of Denver’s Work Force Development program. The audit was briefed before the city’s Independent Audit Committee at their regular meeting Thursday morning.
The Performance Audit of the Office of Economic Development (OED) Division of Workforce Development found that among other things, the agency needs to better align its economic and workforce development strategies. Currently, poor integration of the Division’s mission and core activities within OED’s larger strategic plan limit the Division’s performance and impact on workforce development. The audit also cited the need for the Mayor to appoint a permanent Director.
Denver’s unemployment rate continues to run ahead of that of the rest of the metro-region and the state as a whole. It was at 8% while the most metro area communities were below that, in some cases as low as 7%.
“We continue to tout our economic development efforts and proudly note the new jobs coming to Denver, but those most in need of a job often can’t land those jobs. We must do a better job attacking the problem; we must do a better job targeting training and education for disadvantaged youth and adults towards firms and sectors that provide well-paying jobs and which we are recruiting. It is the disadvantaged youth and adults that make up the core of our chronically unemployed”, Gallagher said.
The audit notes that Denver suffers from the ‘Colorado Paradox’; that Denver, as is the case with the rest of Colorado ranks high with the number of adults with post-secondary degrees but ranks low with the number of high school students who continue to college degrees. We are a net importer of college-prepared or otherwise qualified workers migrate here to take the well-paying jobs being created here.
“We can solve this problem,’ Gallagher said. “We are uniquely positioned to do so, but we won’t until we fully integrate workforce development into OED’s overall thrust and make certain we are training the workers for the jobs that are being created.”
The audit noted that the Division has been operating for nearly three years with an acting director. Indefinitely maintaining acting directors to lead the division communicates a lack of authority and disinterest in workforce development by the city’s leadership. This, too, hinders the Division from fulfilling its mission and core responsibilities.
The audit recommends that a permanent director be appointed but more importantly that the Mayor should take steps to make the director a career position rather than an appointee. This would provide long-term stability and sustainability within the Division. The Mayor and the agency have agreed with this and all the other recommendations. A permanent Division Director will be able to foster and maintain partnerships that can improve the performance of the Division and help bridge the skills gap for the chronically unemployed and the jobs that OED is recruiting.
“I really applaud the Mayor for accepting and implementing this recommendation,” Gallagher said. It shows once again, his progressive leadership and commitment to improving the performance of all city agencies.” “It also demonstrates how the Auditor and the Mayor and his administration can work collaboratively to make Denver a better place to live and work.”
“This is not a broken system, but it does need improvement,” Gallagher said. “That improvement is critical to the city’s economic well-being. We all have an investment in a skilled and qualified workforce.”