Monthly Archives: March 2019

It’s (really not that) Complicated.

Over the course of my career in the workforce development field, I have often been struck by how complex the work gets, when in fact it can be distilled down to two simple concepts:

  • Offer career seekers opportunities to get trained, re-trained or placed in jobs with career pathways and livable wages
  • Assist industry in filling their talent needs

With all the rules, regulations, policies, strategic plans, data systems, multiple partners and every stakeholder imaginable, it is sometimes difficult to drill down and remember that at the core of our work is a need to listen to employers. If we let industry leaders lead us and rely on industry to know their trends, their innovations and their evolving needs, we can adjust our public workforce systems at the regional level accordingly and swiftly to meet needs of industry in real time.

Grant Associates recently surveyed a batch of employer champions across the country. We checked in with them to “take the temperature” and test to what degree their needs have changed in recent years and what new trends we could use in our own service delivery. While many responses affirmed the above statements of “keep it simple,” “be quick to assist with talent,” and “reduce unnecessary layers of regulation as much as possible,” there were also a few new insights worth delving into more deeply. This group of employers varied in size from small to large across several industries including: IT, advanced manufacturing, financial services, healthcare (including life sciences and medical devices), and transportation and logistics.

There were some big affirmations in the responses we received around the innovations and incentives the workforce system brings to the table:

  • Don’t underestimate our convening power. While industry leaders may not realize our exact role or value at the outset, any time we are able to convene industry leaders for robust and impact-driven conversation, convene our partners for better coordination and eliminate the pursuit of the same job leads, or convene ourselves to be thoughtful about our approach, the results are significant.
  • Don’t underestimate anecdotal examples in real time in addition to labor market information. Labor market information continues to evolve in sophistication and timeliness. However, in our fast-paced world, it is important to check in with employers on a regular basis about their daily top-of-mind challenges, which may become a trend in talent pipeline needs months down the road.
  • Don’t underestimate our need to deliver. Developing deep, lasting relationships with specific industries and specific employers is essential. We can’t take those for granted, which means when we are called upon by those same contacts, we must deliver. The entrepreneurial spirit of “we can figure this out” and “we will prioritize this call to action” are the basic tenets of customer service delivery that can yield great credibility and great opportunities for the career seekers we serve.

With the continued challenge of finding skilled talent and changes and advances happening within industry sectors every day, employers need us now more than ever.

It’s really not that complicated.


Marlena Sessions is a workforce development professional who has dedicated her career to creating self-sufficiency via careers for all people. She is the Vice-President for Public and Private Partnerships for Grant Associates, a national workforce development company that has operated nearly 80 different workforce programs in communities of all sizes.

Industrial and Transportation Career Center and Corporate IT Division Receive President’s Award for Commitment to Quality


President Doug Cotter and Executive Vice President Paula Bailey presented the President’s Award for Commitment to Quality for 2018 to the Workforce1 Industrial and Transportation Career Center (ITC) team and the Corporate IT Team on Wednesday, March 20. Now in its fourth year, the President’s Award evaluation includes metrics from the quarterly quality progress reviews and feedback from the corporate departments including Finance, HR, Training and PAVU.


Thanks to the dedication of Director Monique Cole, the managers, and the consistent efforts from all the staff members, the ITC team has claimed the President’s Award for the second year in a row. Funded by the NYC Department of Small Business Services, the Workforce1 ITC is located in Jamaica, Queens and has a sector-focused approach to workforce development. Each year the ITC successfully places up to 2,400 NYC residents, veterans and their spouses into full-time jobs paying over $10 in the transportation, manufacturing, construction, wholesale trades, waste management, and automotive mechanic and repair industries.


This year, Grant Associates’ executive team was also excited to recognize the Corporate IT team for their commitment to quality. Through Director Rakesh Dhingra’s leadership, the IT team has been building processes and using various metrics to ensure quality and make continuous improvements.


The ITC and IT teams enjoyed a catered breakfast, and each staff member will receive one extra PTO day. Congratulations to directors Monique Cole-Green and Rakesh Dhingra and their teams!


Company Extends Partnership with DC DHS, Providing High-Touch Support to Those in Need

Washington, DC, March 15, 2019 – Grant Associates, a nationally acclaimed workforce development company, was selected to provide job placement and education and training services to Washington, DC residents receiving benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF provides income eligible families in need with a combination of financial assistance and work opportunities so that they can eventually transition out of the program. Grant Associates has been a service provider for the DC TANF program since 2012, but this is the first time the job placement and education and occupational training programs have operated independently.

Administered and funded by the District of Columbia Department of Human Services (DHS), TANF provides financial support to families who are experiencing economic challenges.  Approximately 15,000 District families receive TANF cash benefits each month, a reduction from over 17,000 six years ago. Of these, about 11,000 participants are required to engage in work, training or education activities.

Under the redesigned TANF program, education and training are operated and staffed independently from job placement services, allowing more tailored, individualized services for each customer. Job placement services for customers include:

  • resume building
  • job search workshops, and
  • job search assistance including access to job listings and hiring events

Labor Market Information and access to computer labs and job referrals are also available to customers. One of the hallmarks of Grant Associates’ service model is to build proactive relationships with businesses, both for-profit and non-profit, that result in direct access to job opportunities leading to employment.

The education and occupational training services provided under the program aim to enhance customer training, education and occupational skill levels, preparing them to find and retain employment and achieve greater independence. Under the prior model, education and occupational skills training were provided alongside employment readiness and placement services, which often led to the education and training component being overshadowed by the push to place customers in jobs without clear career pathways. DHS has now purposely divided those distinct goals, enabling providers like Grant Associates to offer more high-touch engagements, not just with the customer but with their entire household.

In the first three months, Grant Associates has engaged over 150 customers in education and training programs, enrolled more than 75% of those customers into an education program, developed five customized training classes with providers and an in-house trainer to address skills gaps, and collaborated with DHS on connecting training programs to the six in-demand and high-wage industries. On the job placement side, of the 300 non-employed customers with which we are targeted to engage, we have already enrolled 91%, transitioning20% of them into permanent employment with a 72% retention rate after three months. High-wage employment opportunities are a focus of Grant Associates’ job placement efforts and have secured the highest hourly rate of $27.40/hour.

“While TANF Customers have a range of work experience, many are currently working jobs that don’t provide a viable living wage for their families,” said David Ross, Deputy Administrator of DHS. “The new TANF program is designed to offer incentives for families to increase their employability skills for entrance into competitive, high-demand career pathways.”

This new service delivery model brings with it a renewed focus on the importance of case management and a “Two Generation” approach to services. While customers often enter the program hampered by significant obstacles, case managers work with the entire family to address barriers, opening a world of possibility for each customer. The emphasis here is placed not only on taking the necessary steps that lead to employment with career pathways, but also addressing the needs of the entire family. Case managers conduct home visits and create individual service plans that include the needs of the family—everything from housing stability and education support to parenting needs, healthcare and more.

“We are very proud to be continuing our work to provide job placement, education and training services to the people of Washington, DC,” said Doug Cotter, President of Grant Associates. “We’ve seen some great successes in the community, developed strong relationships with businesses and other partners, and are eager to provide more in-depth and focused support to our customers and their families through this new service delivery model.”


Grant Associates, Inc.

Grant Associates is a national, award-winning workforce development company that has become a trailblazer and a force for innovation in delivering workforce services nationally. A certified Woman-Owned Business, we have operated nearly 80 different programs in communities of all sizes that reflect our strength across the spectrum of workforce development: operating full-service One-Stops, sector-based initiatives, business centers, and programs that serve those on public assistance, as well as other targeted populations such as youth, justice-involved, veterans and the disabled. For more information visit: