Merced County Department of Workforce Investment was honored by the state for its “high-performance” local board.
The recognition went to 20 of 49 workforce investment groups statewide.
Based on legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011, the state Workforce Investment Board developed criteria to ensure local bords were meeting strategic plans to help people find employment, including unemployed adults, dislocated workers and youths.
Local boards also had to develop training programs that employers need, working with the education system and forming local and regional partnerships with other Worknet centers in the Central Valley.
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Merced County’s five-year plan did not originally qualify for state recognition, said Daniel Patterson, the policy and administration manager for the state Workforce Investment Board.
“The first time around, Merced did not achieve that certification. We then went through and did another review, provided some feedback, they responded, and it did allow them to receive the designation,” Patterson said. “Merced was able to demonstrate that kind of cooperation.”
At first, only a third of California’s local workforce investment boards received the recognition. Patterson said the state evaluated each area’s strategic plan and looked at whether local employers are represented on the board.
“They need to have the employer at the table and work with the education system to develop the kinds of programs and training those employers will value,” Patterson said. “It’s about striving for continuous improvement.”
Robert Morris, director of the Merced County Department of Workforce Investment, said the county has about 24 Workforce Investment Board members, including people from the business community and the schools.
He called the honor a “distinction” and credited his staff for the achievement. “This allows us to be in alignment with what the governor wants,” Morris said. “It’s really the staff; it’s certainly been a team effort. Our (Workforce Investment) board really helped us shape our focus.”
Alfredo Mendoza, a special projects manager with the county Department of Workforce Investment, said the recognition allows Merced County to compete for funding.
“When you have that high-performance (recognition) and you’re going for grant money, it certainly is a plus for you,” Mendoza said.
The county’s Worknet centers provide 108,000 services at locations in Merced and Los Banos, according to Morris, and have increased 22 percent over a year.