December 01st, 2023

seward logoROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times


Needing more information, June 4, Seward County commissioners tabled the signing of an agreement with Kansas WorkforceOne to comply with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and to define the general rights, roles and responsibilities and local government units.

Monday, by a vote of 3-1, with commissioner Jim Rice voting against and commissioner Randy Malin absent, the board approved the agreement.

Initially, commissioners questioned the agreement, which was the revision of a previous agreement, as to what the revision was for, what the counties’ fiscal responsibilities were and what services WorkforceOne provides to Seward County.

County Administrator April Warden said WorkforceOne officials were contacted for answers to those questions, and a memo was provided in Monday’s agenda packet to help explain some of that information as well as the number of residents receiving work services in the area and what type of training had been done.

“Deb Scheibler, the executive director of Kansas WorkforceOne, hoped this better addressed some of the questions you had,” she said. “They drafted a new agreement because the funding which funded this program actually transitioned from the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).”

Under the WIA, Seward County was part of a 62-county local workforce investment area designated by the governor.

“Kansas WorkforceOne the Local Area Workforce Development Board provides direct oversight over the programs provided through WIOA as well as the KansasWorks workforce system in Central and Western Kansas,” the attached memo said. 

With the transition to WIOA, the memo said the governor has again designated the 62 central and western counties as local workforce development area. However, the commissions of the 62 counties must enter into a new agreement, known as the chief elected official agreement in order for the local area to be certified.

“That is the reason for the system and what it does, and because their funding source changes, they had to revise the agreement and ask counties to resign that agreement,” Warden said. “She did list what the responsibilities are of the chief elected officials board, and you do have the opportunity to appoint a commissioner to be a member of that board if you so choose. We have gone back and forth in past years with that. There’s been times where we had a commissioner that served on the board. Presently, we do not have anybody that serves on the board.”

Warden said former commissioner Jack Jacob, who resigned in December 2017 due to relocation, had served on that board.

“We did not reassign a commissioner to that board,” she said. “It is not a requirement, but it is an opportunity that you have if you want to. She did let us know what the Seward County services report read.”

Warden said 48 Seward County residents received Kansas work services combined between 2016 and 2017.

“They listed the type of training, and you will notice most of those jobs were in the medical field,” she said. “Of the participants who received training, it was for LPN and RN, respiratory therapy, medical records and one intensive job search. You can see service included rapid response, job fairs, workshops, job postings, on the job training, customized training, recruitment and work experience. Those were the type of employer services they offer.”

The report said 2016 saw 707 businesses get employer services, while 711 businesses received those services in 2017.

Rice said he was concerned about the county taking on liabilities with the program before voting against the proposal.

The agreement has no financial impact to the counties it concerns, as WorkforceOne receives federal funding.

“Kansas Workforce has received funding to provide the training and services to the 48 residents in our county that needed their assistance, but Seward County themselves did not receive that funding,” Warden said. 

The administrator then talked about the effects of the loss of a local Workforce center a few years ago in Liberal.

“Seward County, in years past, had a Workforce center,” she said. “It used to be located up in the shopping mall where JC Penney is. When they left, we felt the effects of that because people started coming to the county not knowing where the Workforce center was and needed help. We didn’t have a local office here.”

Representatives from WorkforceOne do come to Liberal, Warden said, a few days a week at the tech school campus of Seward County Community College.

“It does help, and we have that information here where we can direct people to,” she said. “Anymore, they tell you to get online, but there are just some people that don’t have the means of getting online, or they’re not comfortable with getting online. They have questions and want to talk to a person. They are at least sending someone out a few days a month.”