Op-ed: How the Department of Workforce Services can help Utahns find jobs

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The state’s economic data tells us there are great opportunities in multiple industry sectors. And more importantly, the Department of Workforce Services is prepared to connect you with these opportunities.

In the mid-1990s, Gov. Michael Leavitt asked then Lt. Gov. Olene Walker to lead the Workforce Development Task Force to determine the possible consolidation options for Utah’s employment, job training and public assistance programs. At the time, there were 29 or so programs between five state agencies. Leavitt said it best: “It just cried out for a better solution.”

I remember this time well. I was only a few years into my career working for one of the employment programs. The transition was not easy, but looking back it was necessary and visionary of both Leavitt and Walker. Becoming one department with both the workforce and public assistance programs was unique and innovative. Walker knew at the time that bringing these programs together was a better way to serve the people of Utah. She saw this vision through until the signing of SB 166 in 1997, officially creating the Department of Workforce Services. It is a great honor to soon have the department’s administration building named the Olene S. Walker Building.

In the 20 years following, Utah has been recognized for having one of the nation’s best-functioning unemployment insurance programs, a highly efficient eligibility determination program for public assistance, and most recently, the ability to effectively implement the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed by Congress. Utah leads the nation in utilizing technology and transitioning to online services, all while maintaining exceptional…

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