Rapid Response - Solutions for Economic Transition
Mar 15

There ain’t nuthin’ new!

By Tim Theberge

In 1989, I was in 6th grade. You could buy a 25 MHz computer with a 250 MB hard drive for $6,500 (your eyes aren’t failing you, those are both only “megas”). That same year, Mikhail S. Gorbachev was named Soviet President, tens of thousands of Chinese students took over Beijing's Tiananmen Square in a rally for democracy, the Berlin Wall was opened to the West, US troops invaded Panama seeking capture of General Manuel Noriega, and the ruptured tanker Exxon Valdez sent million of gallons of crude oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound. Those were all memorable events…

Something else was significant that year… or at least interesting to those of us in the workforce investment system. It is a something I found stuck to the back of a binder shoved into the shelves in my cube, “Rapid Response Under EDWAA: ETA Perspectives and Expectations,” which was prepared for Multi-Regional Rapid Response Workshops for State Dislocated Worker Units.

What this document reveals is that the New Vision of Rapid Response developed in our 2009 and 2010 Regional Roundtables and presented at the National ReEmployment Summit last December, is not so new. Except for perhaps an overemphasis on WARN vs. more comprehensive proactive measures, way back in 1989, a lot of the same things we are focusing on today were being talked about and promoted, including:

  • Early intervention
  • Layoff aversion
  • Building an extensive network of partners
  • Brokering solutions
  • On-going, proactive efforts
  • Importance of follow-up
  • Skills assessments
  • Coordination with economic development organizations
  • Monitoring,  reporting and management systems
  • Labor-management cooperation
  • Training and retraining
  • Being there where and when needed to assist workers and businesses
  • Comprehensive solutions that includes family services, healthcare, housing, financial, counseling, etc.

I am not sure why the focus during the 1990’s and first decade of the 21st century shifted away from this comprehensive approach to Rapid Response, but I do know why we need to renew that focus… it is because we can make a difference. And we ARE making a difference. Across the country, Rapid Response is experiencing a renaissance; practitioners like you are embracing the role as a solutions broker and workers, businesses and communities are the beneficiaries of your efforts. And for what it’s worth, my Droid 2 smartphone has a 1 GHz (1,000 mega) processor with 16 GB (16,000 mega) of storage. It cost me $50.

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