Workforce Investment Act
One Stop Partner
Memorandum of Understanding
Northern Rural Training and Employment Consortium (NoRTEC)
This document provides some background to the NoRTEC One Stop Partner Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"), written to comply with the federal Workforce Investment Act of 1998 ("WIA"), by:
- Introducing the concept and purpose of the One Stop MOU,
- Defining the parties who will enter into the MOU,
- Summarizing the WIA's requirements for MOU content, and
- Discussing the principles underlying NoRTEC's form of MOU.
One Stop MOU Concept and Purpose
Under the WIA, workforce development services for adults and dislocated workers are to be provided through One Stop Career Centers located in each WIA-defined Local Area (of which NoRTEC's eight-County area is one). Information about the entire range of education, training and job-finding services, as well as employer services available within the Local Area must be accessible to any interested person through the One Stop network, whose primary customers include both job-seekers and employers.
The WIA includes a list of One Stop Partner agencies which already provide these workforce development services and which, because they are Partners under the WIA, must join together to (i) establish the One Stop network and (ii) deliver their Core Services (generally, customer outreach, employment, training and related information, available programs and services, and referral to more extensive services) through the One Stop network. It is left up to each Local Area's Workforce Investment Board ("WIB") and the Elected Officials (in NoRTEC, the Governing Board) to identify the particular local entities which will be its One Stop Partners.
As conceived by WIA, the MOU is to be the foundational framework for organizing the Core Services and related financial resources of all these Partners into a unified customer service system. The essential parties to the MOU are each One Stop Partner and the WIB, subject to Governing Board approval. The MOU is described in the WIA as an agreement which includes both performance requirements and financial provisions.
The WIA requires each MOU to be entered into by the WIB and one or more Partners. The WIA does not dictate whether there must be one MOU for all Partners, a separate MOU for each or some other arrangement, nor does the WIA prohibit another entity (for example, the One Stop Operator) from being included as a signatory to the MOU. These issues are left to the discretion of the WIB with the consent of the Governing Board.
In conformance with the WIA, NoRTEC has designated the current NoRTEC One Stop operators as the WIA Program Operators, and included them as parties to the NoRTEC agreement. They are to act as the lead agents for NoRTEC at the local level for developing local partner MOUs, referral and other One Stop policy, and general One Stop compliance with WIA rules and regulations.
The major Partners in each Local Area (i.e., those which have the most workforce funding and broadest scope of workforce services) include the administrator(s) of WIA-funded adult and dislocated worker training programs, the State Employment Development Department, the State Department of Rehabilitation and providers of public adult and vocational education. However, the WIA leaves to local discretion (subject to State regulation) the identification of the particular Local Area entity which will be a Partner for MOU purposes.
For example, in NoRTEC's eight-County Local Area there are many entities which carry out postsecondary vocational education activities under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Act (a WIA-defined Partner). It does not specify which of these are "Partners" for purposes of delivering their Core Services through, and participating in the support of, NoRTEC's One Stop network. In contrast, there is no Job Corps Center located in NoRTEC's Local Area, although Job Corps representatives do travel through the eight Counties on occasion to recruit young residents. The WIA does not specify whether the Job Corps must be a Partner under these circumstances.
NoRTEC's answers to these questions are based on the following policies jointly adopted by the WIB and Governing Board:
- Multiple Potential Partners. When there exist within NoRTEC's Local Area multiple entities which meet the WIA definition of "Required Partner" in a particular category, NoRTEC will in consultation with those entities identify the ones which provide the greatest volume of services (measured by available funding from the WIA-defined federal source); and will designate as a Partner one of those whose high-level policy-makers indicate an interest in participation as a Partner; or, lacking such an indication, will define as a Partner the entity for which participation in One Stop oversight and services will, in the reasonable judgment of NoRTEC, deliver the highest benefit to NoRTEC customers while minimizing the inconvenience for the selected entity.
- Minimum Presence. To be considered a NoRTEC "Required Partner", an entity which otherwise meets the WIA definition of "Required Partner" must have a physical office which is located in NoRTEC's eight-County Local Area and which is staffed at least forty hours per week by one or more employees having the knowledge and capability to offer the entity's Core Services to customers.
Of course, these policies do not exclude any other entity from entering into an MOU with the NoRTEC WIB as an "Optional Partner" should both parties wish to do so with Governing Board approval. Each local One Stop may also elect to add additional partners to its One Stop through an agreement separate from the NoRTEC MOU.
MOU Essential Elements
Each MOU must at a minimum include provisions describing:
- The services to be provided through the One Stop network, which must include the Core Services of each of the Partners but may also include other services.
- How the costs of providing those Core Services as well as the general operating costs of the One Stop network will be funded.
- Methods for referring One Stop customers between the One Stop Operator (defined and designated by the WIB with Governing Board agreement) and the Partners as needed for customers to obtain appropriate services and activities.
- The duration of the MOU and how it may be amended.
In addition, MOUs may contain other provisions as desired by the parties, but may not contradict WIA or other legal requirements. For example, the MOU may not require a Partner to provide a service or utilize non-WIA funds in a manner prohibited by the Partner's authorizing statutes, nor may it require the use of WIA funds to support services which would be provided using Partner resources if the WIA did not exist.
NoRTEC MOU Drafting Principles
In preparing its form of MOU, NoRTEC's WIB and Governing Board have adhered closely to the requirements of the WIA. Those requirements summarized above have been supplemented by locally-adopted guiding principles which reflect many decades of combined experience among Board members and staff in delivering workforce development services, overseeing governmental functions, directing business operations and entering into various types of contracts.
In summary, those guiding principles are as follows:
- Simplicity. The MOU should say directly and in plain English what it intends the parties to perform and the agreement to accomplish, with a minimum of complexity, governmental language and legalese.
- Brevity. The shorter an agreement the better, so long as it fulfills its purpose. The MOU need not repeat provisions of law which govern the parties in any event
- Universal service. As a matter of law, there is no eligibility requirement for any person who wishes to utilize Core Services through the One Stop network, and all Core Services of all Partners must be available to all One Stop customers. Because a Core Service customer cannot be identified with a particular Partner, there is no reasonable basis on which to apportion Core Service delivery or One Stop operating costs among Partners based on customers served.
- Certainty over uncertainty. The purpose of the MOU is to establish by mutual agreement the parties' obligations, based on a reasonable advance apportionment of overall customer service responsibilities and financial obligations subject to negotiation among the parties. It is not acceptable to leave these terms uncertain for determination after-the-fact upon analysis of customer enrollments, which in any case do not provide a rational basis for such a determination (e.g., there is no direct corrollation between the numbers of customers who use Core Services and the numbers who later receive a particular Partner's more extensive services; there is no objective method to account for the varying "value" of a particular more extensive customer service versus another; and there is no logical basis to conclude that a non-profit or governmental Partner receives any benefit from a customer's receipt of its more extensive services, for purposes of apportioning One Stop and Core Service delivery costs).
- Primacy of customer service. The financial structure of the MOU should support WIA programmatic goals, the most important of which is customer service, and not vice versa. Therefore, the MOU must not provide a disincentive for Partners to encourage their respective clients to utilize One Stop services (e.g., by increasing a Partner's One Stop financial obligations based on the number of customers referred to the One Stop).
- Local Control and Autonomy. To the extent practicable, One Stop operating policies and procedures will be determined by the partners at the local county level. NoRTEC recognizes and supports the diversity among its member counties, and is committed to fostering meaningful local involvement in the One Stop delivery system. There is also the practical need imposed by the vast geographic area to delegate significant decision making authority to the local level. Within the boundaries of NoRTEC regional policy, the local partners are encouraged to determine what best works for them in the provision of programs and services through the local One Stops.
The MOU constitutes the foundational framework on which to construct the unified, customer-focused, multi-agency One Stop Career Center system envisioned by the WIA. The MOU designed by NoRTEC prioritizes compliance with WIA while also achieving this critical outcome based on good business management principles.
The One Stop Career Center system offers to NoRTEC and to the residents and employers of its eight-County Local Area an unprecedented opportunity to build and benefit from efficient, systematic, high-quality workforce development services. This will require the WIB, Governing Board, Operators, Partners and other One Stop entities to adapt tried-and-true methods to work together to achieve this exciting and important common purpose.