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Conflict and Collaboration: Workforce Investment Act Essay (Article)

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Updated: Dec 16th, 2021

Research question

“How did the WIA funding system impact the providers and planners of programs for incumbent workers?” (Hopkins, et al, 2009).

Research Methodology

The research utilized a qualitative case-study approach so as to enable the researchers to gain an understanding and knowledge about the WIA implementation in a region in the Midwest. The researchers focused on the collaboration and the conflict existing among the implementing agencies and the program providers. The researchers utilized a method that would allow them to understand the program from the perspective of the participant and not the researcher that would allow the researcher to act as the primary instrument for data collection that would employ an inductive research strategy and that which would involve fieldwork. The study involved the analysis of the political process involved in the implementation and provision of the WIA program. In addition, the researchers utilized Matland’s (1995) framework that would allow the researchers to analyze the interplay among local actors and contexts, and the political influence surrounding such implementation and program provision. The theoretical focus can also allow the analysis of the competition at the local level, as well as the analysis of the micro-level contextual factors in the planning process. The study involved semistructured interviews which lasted for 1-2 hours and interview guides provided after the semistructured interviews, and which provided structure and focus on the research question. The interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed.

Data Sources, Analysis, and Procedures

The research data involved was collected from the region aforementioned. It involved fifteen potential participants from the areas of business WIA providers at the local and state level. Also participating in this study included six of those involved with the implementation and development of the WIA in the Midwestern region of the United States. Sources of information, including transcripts of interviews, were “unitized” as independent sources of information i.e. understanding each as without additional information. Grouping of categories previously developed for initial sorting was compared with the Matland framework. The study involved a number of strengths and limitations. Strengths included the experience of the interviewer as a workforce development field officer and therefore had earlier access to his participants. Some experiences also were from his encounter in training under JTPA and WIA climates. These experiences allowed him to criticize some aspects of field cultures, as well as having prior knowledge and experience of the challenges of the field involved.

Summary of Findings

WIA failed in that it limited or barred planners and providers from engaging in the development of the incumbent workforce. Business representatives were limited or bared, disempowered, and disengaged by WIA from supporting government-based workforce development efforts. The study found that there was a common understanding of the twofold goals of WIA. These included developing the skills of the incumbent workforce and building a “seamless tailored workforce development system”. There was an agreement among the participants that WIA exists to ensure that the workforce development system would gain from the training needs of the business. In addition, workers held the consent that WIA could benefit the unemployed through the provision of job placements. Incumbent workers were prevented by some obstacles in their quest for additional skill development which was necessary to maintain their current employment and improvement of skills so as to become competitive in the local workforce. There exists conflicts under the WIA system namely, the power broker conflict which focused on the person with real power irrespective of the assigned change agent roles, policy interpretation conflict, change agent conflict, and ambiguity of means. Very different perceptions were held about the roles from the state-level stakeholders. The Center for Law and Social Policy recommended that there be created a minimum WIA funding to enhance training and worker (incumbent or otherwise) rather than to aid job seeking and other services. There are criticisms that have focused on WIA with the Chicago Jobs Council criticizing the implementation of WIA. Under the old set of legislation bureaucracy, there occurred strong resistance from those in power to the change agents, and therefore power influenced the implementation of WIA. Businesses became more competitive, including their current workers, because WIA legislation was presented as a way of change to be driven from the local level. This achievement was met by WIA rather than encouraging underprepared workers to enter the job market. There was a conflict on who had the power to control the change, or become a change agent. While the local-level participants felt that the state was to maintain control over the redesign of the workforce development system, the state-level felt that the power to redesign the system existed in the hands of the local-level participants. There was concern on the interpretation of the focus of the study; it was perceived by some that the legislation paid a small concern of the incumbent workers, while others thought it focused on the incumbent workers. Participants who were planners and providers failed to receive guidance necessary for finding a process for providing worker development, but instead received guidance to result to a system of helping the unemployed, the youth, and very low income workers “as individuals independent of their workplace” (Hopkins, et al, 2009).

Instruction/Counseling Implications

Research Implications

The research was faced with a number of challenges and limitations, as well as problems or difficulties. Only a small number of participants were involved in the research study and only came from one location. The research study would have been better if many people were involved in the study rather than the small number. A larger population would mean better results as well as more opinions than those considered. The problem with considering only a particular small region is that there will be limited application for the research findings. In other words, the findings or results would not have, and cannot be applied to all the areas. For more widely applicable results, the research required consideration of a wider area or more regions. The experience of the principal researcher (JLH) to have emic perspective and experience of participants and the area allowed or even influenced his criticism of the research items.

Strengths & contributions

Some of the contributions and strengths of the study were that the researchers were able to find the conflicts involved in the implementation of the WIA, as well as other issues surrounding the implementation and provision. This was necessary because it could aid the development of the program through removal of obstacles and limitations. There were contrary effects of WIA on planners and providers contrary to what was stated in the goals of the legislation.

Weaknesses & Limitations or questions you’d like to ask the researcher

A few questions may be directed to the researcher in this study. One, if the limitations were established as mentioned in this paper, what were the initiatives put in place to make sure that they did not influence to a large scale the results of the study? Secondly, what are the areas that would necessarily be studied in depth or in future to explore more on the research findings? Are there other frameworks that would have been used in the analysis of the case study apart from the Matland’s, and what would be the difference in the results after utilizing different frameworks?


Hopkins, J., Catherine, M., Catherine, H. (2009). Conflict and collaboration: providers and planners implementing the workforce investment act (wia). American Association for Adults and Continuing Education, Vol. 59 (3).

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