How California’s Workforce Development System Excludes Immigrants, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It

Kevin Lee
Date of Publication: 
September, 2019
Source Organization: 

This brief presents an overview of structural and systemic issues with California’s workforce development system that limit participation of certain populations, including immigrants. In addition to “creaming,” where a program prioritizes providing services to those clients most likely to have a positive outcome quickly, the author suggests a number of other problems are built into the current system. Based on 27 interviews with staff from 19 workforce development non-profits, he believes programs that provide services to immigrants with limited English proficiency or without work authorization are not as connected as other workforce development providers to networks of employers who can provide jobs. Interviewees also criticized limited funding for administrative costs, the burden of paperwork and the impact of narrow performance metrics. The author highlights promising alternative models of workforce development programs that focus on particular marginalized populations, but concludes that without being better integrated into the broader network of providers and employers they will have a limited impact. The paper concludes with several policy recommendations, including the use of new types of accountability rubrics. For example, the author suggests that program evaluations should be based on client employability (a measure of how ready for work they are) instead of employment, which is out of the control of the program itself. He also argues that programs should be held accountable for how well they promote equity, which would include being evaluated for their advocacy and organizing efforts.  (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

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Lee, K. (2019). How California’s workforce development system excludes immigrants, why it matters, and what we can do about it. Retrieved from