Other states look to Utah as model for improving their economy

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (News4Utah) – Lawmakers from other states want to know how Utah has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
On Thursday, Utah’s Department of Workforce Services was called to testify before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C.
Liz Carver, the Workforce Development Program Division Director with the Utah Department of Workforce Services told the committee that the Beehive State’s successful economy has been more than two decades in the making.
“More than 20 years ago, Governor Michael Leavitt and Lt. Governor Olene Walker organized a task force to evaluate Utah’s workforce and welfare models,” Carver testified. “We had more than 29 programs spread out between five state agencies.”
The task force consolidated the 29 programs and created one department comprised of workforce and welfare programs. Carver said that the intent was to provide better services to Utah citizens.
The Department of Workforce Services manages the following programs:
 Workforce development
• Unemployment insurance
• Welfare
• Vocational Rehabilitation
• Child Care
• Veterans employment
• Refugee services
• Housing and community development
• And labor market information 
Nate McDonald, the Communications Director for the Department of Workforce Services told News4Utah’s Brittany Johnson that this model works well in good times and bad and is why Utah has experienced 48 consecutive months of less than four- percent unemployment.
“We believe that we are better setup to not only help people get their first job, but get a better job and then go on and get a career,” McDonald explained.
McDonald went on to say that Utah’s “work-first approach” is one of the main reasons businesses want to setup shop our state.
“The fact that Utah has had such a strong economy, it has been attracting so many businesses to the state. That’s why we have so many jobs,” said McDonald. 
Now the challenge is being able to meet the demands of employers.
“We have a lot of businesses that are out there saying, ‘hey, we need more skilled workers,’ ” McDonald said.
Carver ended Thursday’s testimony by sharing these recommendations for lawmakers to consider: 
  • First, we recommend outcome-based measures instead of focusing on activity in programs. For example, measuring skills gained, credentials attained and employment
  • secured.
  • Second, continue to push integration of programs at the federal level. Even though we integrated 20 plus years ago, it took years of research, coordination and a governor
  • leading the charge to make the change. If it is siloed at the federal level, it will likely
  • remain siloed at the state level.
  • Third, allow individuals to access education that leads to a recognized credential as an option under work requirements.
  • Fourth, align work requirements across programs and give states the flexibility to implement. 

Click here to read Carver’s written testimony.

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