Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Witness Testimony of Rochelle L. Webb, D.M., and President, National Association of State Workforce Agencies, Administrator, Employment Administration, Arizona Department of Economic Security
NASWA is pleased to respond to the request for comments by the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the issue of “Federal Contractor Compliance.”
NASWA’s members, the publicly-funded State workforce development agencies, have extensive expertise in operating veterans’ employment programs and exposure to related Federal contractor compliance issues. NASWA’s activities with JobCentral National Labor Exchange (NLX) and its affiliate VetCentral -- a Federal Contractor Job Listing (FCJL) compliance mechanism, have given our organization and its partners a more direct involvement with FCJL issues.
Our testimony includes the following points:
- State workforce agencies urges OFCCP to develop a comprehensive Federal contractor list allowing State workforce development staff to outreach to Federal contracts as potential employers and increase networking opportunities. OFFCP should compile and maintain an up-to-date list of Federal contractors including Federal subcontractor information and should regularly share with States;
- NASWA continues to identify misinterpretations of regulations among OFCCP field staff hampering the ability of State workforce agencies to effectively serve veterans and Federal contractors;
- State workforce agencies support additional training of OFCCP field personnel to make sure law and regulations are administered properly. Such an effort should include clarification of the appropriate roles and responsibilities of involved Federal agencies, and webinar training for OFCCP staff on the National Labor Exchange and VetCentral;
- State workforce agencies support OFCCP contacting the appropriate State officials when it begins a Federal contractor audit to facilitate an effective process.
Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman, and Members of the Subcommittee, on behalf of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA), I thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony addressing Federal agency activities to ensure Federal contractors’ compliance.
NASWA is pleased to comment on the interpretation of Federal regulations governing the process Federal contractors must use to hire, retain and promote veterans under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). Specifically, Federal contractors must post job openings with State workforce agencies, either in State job banks or at the appropriate local employment service delivery system.
The members of our Association constitute State leaders of the publicly-funded workforce investment system vital to meeting the employment needs of veterans through the Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP), Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVER), and the Wagner-Peyser Act. The mission of NASWA is to serve as an advocate for State workforce agencies, a liaison to Federal workforce system partners, and a forum for the exchange of information and practices. Our organization was founded in 1937. Since 1973, it has been a private, non-profit corporation, financed primarily by annual dues from member State agencies.
On May 14, 2009, NASWA testified on the role of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Program (OFCCP) in protecting the employment rights of service disabled veterans and Vietnam War veterans. At that time we made the following four recommendations:
- OFCCP should develop and maintain an official list of Federal contractors that could be shared with State workforce agencies;
- OFCCP should increase staffing levels;
- OFCCP should create and deliver comprehensive training for field staff to ensure laws and regulations are administered properly and uniformly; and,
- USDOL, through OFCCP, the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), should clarify and communicate the roles of all involved Federal and State agencies.
Of these four recommendations, we are pleased USDOL has had the opportunity to hire additional staff to conduct audits and enforce regulations. While OFCCP has conducted extensive training for newly hired staff, we are still concerned OFCCP field staff is not properly and uniformly interpreting regulations across States.
We appreciate the opportunity to testify again on this issue and address the questions provided in your invitation.
- Is there a need to increase transparency such as requiring the VETS-100 report to be published and made available to the public?
Although we do not have a position on whether the VETS-100 should be public, we have recommendations on how the report can be improved and how the information collected in VETS-100 can be better used to assist veterans. Our recommendations are:
- The VETS-100 report should collect the same information on subcontractors as it does on prime contractors. Although the VETS-100 is intended to be used by both prime contractors and subcontractors, subcontractor information is usually not reported; NASWA recommends contractors be required to provide a list of subcontractors, and supports strengthening the requirements for subcontractors to file reports;
- A Federal contractors’ list generated from the VETS-100 report should be provided to State workforce agencies. State workforce agencies are frustrated over the lack of a comprehensive, official and accurate Federal contactor list. Such a list would:
- Enable States’ LVERs, DVOPs, and one-stop staff to contact Federal contractors and help facilitate employment opportunities for veterans;
- Properly identify Federal Contractor Job Listing (FCJL) employers within State job banks resulting in increased referrals of veterans;
- Empower the National Labor Exchange (NLX) to compile all jobs appearing on Federal contractors’ corporate Web sites and import them into State job banks at no cost; and,
- Allow State workforce agencies to outreach and educate employers about the valuable services provided through the publicly-funded workforce development system.
While a Federal contractors’ list generated from the VETS-100 report may not include all Federal contractors, it provides an excellent start. We recommend USDOL commission a study to identify the best process to create and maintain such a list. The study should also identify suitable technological solutions. In the past, there was an attempt to create such a list which was initially successful. However, manual update processes rendered such efforts useless as information quickly became outdated.
- Are you aware of contractor violations against the above mentioned legal authorities?
NASWA does not have direct information on contractor violations. However, many times LVERs/DVOPs contact employers, whom they believe are Federal contractors, and are met with a refusal to list in the employment service. State staff also indicates employers are not aware of their FCJL obligations or at the local level are not aware of their corporation’s Federal contractor status.
Since there is no official list of Federal contractors, LVERs/DVOPs make such contacts based on their knowledge of an employer’s Federal contractor status or because OFCCP has recently asked them to report on whether an employer has listed with the employment service (therefore indicating they are Federal contractors). In addition, they outreach to employers they believe are Federal contractors based on information received through local social networks or through media coverage.
- Are contractors listing employment opportunities in the Federal Contractor Job Listing program?
While contractors are listing employment opportunities in the FCJL program, the ability to do so is undermined by the inconsistent interpretation of VEVRAA regulations by OFCCP staff in some States. This problem persists despite NASWA having offered a national solution that can easily assist with FCJL program goals. For almost two years, NASWA has sought to discuss these issues and our recommendations with USDOL’s OFCCP, yet no progress has resulted despite their original invitation at last year’s committee hearing and our outreach and attempt to brief national OFCCP leaders and staff.
NASWA’s National Labor Exchange (NLX), a free, sophisticated job-search engine, replaced USDOL’s defunct America’s Job Bank (AJB) in 2007. The NLX is the only tool allowing all employers, especially multi-state employers, to download jobs in State job banks in an effective and cost-efficient manner. A total of 48state workforce agencies are participating in this alliance. See Addendum for more information regarding the NLX.
Since 2007, NLX has provided over 8 million jobs to State workforce agencies’ job banks. Of those 8 million jobs, approximately 3 million jobs were FCJL jobs. The initiative is operated in partnership with DirectEmployers Association, a trade association of over 550 Fortune 500 companies.
All NLX services to State workforce agencies and States’ employer and jobseeker customers are free. The initiative uses no Federal funds for operations, research or development. Rather, it leverages private, non-profit-owned technology with existing State workforce agency resources. State job-banks across the United States can transmit job orders to each other and receive thousands of job orders via electronic download from over 5,000 employers. Job orders are updated daily, avoiding duplication and ensuring job opportunities are still open.
The National Labor Exchange’s FCJL compliance tool is VetCentral. VetCentral was created to provide employers OFCCP compliance with VEVRAA as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act (JVA). While FCJL jobs are available for automated downloads directly into State job banks, and while the majority of State workforce agencies do participate, not all State workforce agencies have been able to avail themselves of this service. To help ameliorate this situation, and within the framework of the current regulations, VetCentral sends daily emails of FCJL jobs to the appropriate local employment service delivery system. All States, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia receive VetCentral emails. In addition, the 48 participating States have explicitly designated VetCentral as an acceptable means of receiving FCJL jobs.
Unfortunately, many OFCCP field staff rejected the NLX’s VetCentral solution, which easily provides Federal contractors the ability to list employment opportunities. We recommend the following:
- A dialogue between OFCCP and NASWA on this issue;
- A clarification from OFCCP to its field staff on how to handle VetCentral issues;
- A webinar training for OFCCP staff on the NLX and VetCentral; and,
- Establishment of appropriate communications channels between OFCCP field staff and State workforce agency officials during employer audits.
- Do veterans have access to Federal Contractor Job Listing?
While veterans have access to many FCJL jobs through VetCentral and individual State job banks, currently there exists no mechanism to list all Federal contractor jobs because there is no complete list.
- Are Federal agencies doing enough to monitor Federal contractor compliance?
NASWA does not have adequate information to address this question.
- How are veterans’ employment opportunities affected by the lack of Federal contractor compliance?
Certainly there is a lack of Federal contractor compliance negatively impacting veterans’ employment. However, the situation has been further exacerbated by OFCCP’s inconsistent interpretation of VEVRAA regulations and their lack of dialogue with State workforce agencies to resolve this issue.
- Do DVOPs and LVERs have access to a Federal contractor list as potential employers and networking opportunities?
No. While DVOPs and LVERs have access to many FCJL jobs through VetCentral and individual State job banks, currently there exists no comprehensive Federal contractor list.
NASWA and its members remain dedicated to improving the efficiency of the labor market and its labor exchange function, and improving the employment opportunities of our nation’s veterans. We are willing to assist the Subcommittee and the U.S. Department of Labor in any way possible.
Thank you for the opportunity to address these important issues.
JOB CENTRAL NATIONAL LABOR EXCHANGE (NLX)
What is the NLX?
The JobCentral National Labor Exchange (NLX) is a sophisticated electronic labor exchange solution. This online network connects businesses and State workforce agencies in their mission to create a cost-effective system that improves labor market efficiency and reflects our nation’s diverse workforce.
The NLX network connects over 5,000 large employers and their job opportunities with the publicly operated State job banks – vastly expanding the number of searchable job opportunities for jobseekers and providing employers the ability to meet hiring goals. Further, NLX allows State operated job banks to seamlessly exchange job opportunity content collected through the activities of State workforce agencies business representatives.
How does it work?
In an automated and cost effective fashion, the NLX gathers currently available and unduplicated job opportunities from verified employers and pushes that content into State workforce agency sites to reach a maximum number of jobseekers. The NLX is not a destination point where you apply for a position, but rather a jobs content provider directing jobseekers back to the where the job opportunity originated.
Who are the NLX Principals?
This unique public-private venture is the result of an alliance between NASWA, an association representing State workforce agencies, and DirectEmployers Association, an organization representing primarily Fortune 500 companies. NLX leverages private, non-profit-owned technology with existing State workforce agency resources and combines the agility and innovation of the private sector with the public sector’s ability to offer information and services in a trusted environment.
NLX Accomplishments to Date
Created in March 2007, the NLX has brought substantive value to jobseekers, employers and participating State workforce agencies.
Job seekers have access to a quick and easy platform that gives them free access to more, currently available jobs, from verified employers.
Employers can reduce hiring and resource costs, meet and exceed affirmative action objectives, achieve JVA compliance, get free nationwide exposure, and have access to a much larger pool of job applicants.
State Workforce Agencies have embraced the NLX with a total of forty seven (47) States, plus the District of Columbia signing participation agreements. Under the oversight of the Operations Committee—a group comprised of State and employer representatives, the NLX partnership has embraced the principles of transparency and flexibility. Over the last three years the NLX has:
- Delivered 8 million job openings into State job banks. State officials can access a Job Counter and view how many jobs the NLX contains in their State at any given day at http://stateadmin.jobcentral.org/statistics.aspx
- This number reflects unduplicated and available jobs (not expired job orders).
- This number does not include job orders originating from State workforce agency job banks.
- This number includes 3 million Federal contractor jobs reportable under the Federal Contractor Job Listing (FCJL) program requirements.
- These job orders are free of advertising of any kind.
- Provided an electronic bridge for State job banks to share job orders with one another. State workforce agencies can take a feed of job orders from neighboring States and State workforce agencies’ job banks.
- Offered State job banks downloads of job orders coded by O*NET. This affords State workforce agencies greater ease in pursing future job-matching reemployment efforts.
- Offered State job banks free job order indexing as a service States can offer to their business customers. As a true national labor exchange, the NLX indexes a total of 5,000 employers who are not DE members. State workforce agencies do not need to purchase costly spidering packages, but can identify “indexable” business, notify the NLX, and download that file.
- Completed development of an Analytics dashboard tool enabling State workforce agencies to view transactional data about jobseeker searches. The tool captures: (1) the flow of jobseeker traffic into State job banks from the NLX, and the (2) flow of jobseekers from State job banks to jobs originating from employers’ Web sites. O*NET coding of job orders allows for in-depth use of data and the production of different reports.
Of critical importance is the ability to demonstrate to specific employers that a State job bank is sending traffic to an employers’ Web site, in other words demonstrating one’s market share. In addition, because DE can now show an employer specific State job bank jobseeker traffic that employer can track hire information for each “referral,” offering the system tangible information about the value of its online self-services.
The dashboard is now available to State workforce agencies at no cost.
- Provided Free hosting of State Job Banks. The NLX provides a free labor exchange solution, skinned to the preferences of a State workforce agency. The job bank available offers flexibility in look and feel and can be easily administered by State workforce agency staff. In addition to cost savings, this option offers hosted States the full breadth of JobCentral services, such as free integrated extended searches*. Currently, Connecticut and New Jersey are being fully hosted by the NLX, with New York and Nevada working on such a transfer.
*Extended search—a jobseeker’s search criteria on the NLX are run invisibly to him/her against other search engines. Results from those searches are offered in a sidebar option to the jobseeker and not comingled with the NLX results.
- Built and Administered VetCentral Services: Under Federal law, contractors receiving over $100K of Federal funds, must list their positions with either the State workforce agency job bank or with the appropriate local employment service delivery office. Since not all States are in the position of taking an NLX electronic download and since even those that do download cannot keep an electronic copy of all job postings, the VetCentral service was designed to facilitate the situation.
VetCentral is that part of the NLX that emails all FCJL jobs to the appropriate State staff at the appropriate local employment centers (where Wagner-Peyser funding exists). This functionality allows employers to generate a report they may provide to the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance. Most importantly, it allows States to put more jobs in the hands of local staff and provide greater opportunities to veterans, while at the same time helping the workforce system meets its own priority of service requirements.
The NLX has maintained a robust list of the appropriate center addresses and contact information. In addition, the NLX partners provided countless educational discussions with interested stakeholders, many times conducting research on behalf of Federal employers and State workforce agencies engaged in an OFCCP audit. Finally, the NLX has provided thousands of copies of VetCentral materials to field staff.
- Partnered with the US Reserves and National Guard.Over the last two years, JobCentral, the job search platform powering the NLX, also has served as the job search engine powering the US Army Reserve’s Employer Partnership Initiative. The initiative, which now has expanded to include all branches of the Reserves and the National Guard, aims at outreaching to employers and bringing employment opportunities to service members before they separate from service. NLX has become the primary employment search engine for this initiative and is provided to at no cost to the military.
You may view the site at: http://www.jobcentral.org/vetcentral/army-reserve-employer-program/ .
This partnership has allowed service members connect with the workforce system before separation, which can bring a potential applicant pool of over one million service members to State job banks.