ROGERSVILLE — Beginning Oct. 1, the Knoxville-based Knox County Community Action Committee will be overseeing the WIOA program which finds jobs and workforce training for young people in Hawkins and Hancock counties.
For the past 30 years, the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board has facilitated the federally funded Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program, which currently serves 44 youths in Hawkins County and 20 in Hancock.
WIOA is designed to strengthen and improve the nation’s public workforce system and help get Americans, especially youths and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers and to help employers hire and retain skilled workers.
Walters State Community College had been the regional governing organization for the Hawkins/Hancock WIOA program, but both counties were recently reassigned to the Alliance for Business Training in Elizabethton.
The ABT subsequently advertised for bids from other agencies to begin facilitating the WIOA program in all eight counties in Upper East Tennessee, and the contract was awarded to KCCAC.
Hawkins County IDB Chairman Larry Elkins told his board Thursday that he has signed a contract with Walters State to maintain the local WIOA program for the next three months until the transition to the KCCAC is complete.
“We know those (KCCAC) people because they’ve been doing this type of work in some of the counties that surround Knox County,” Elkins said. “I don’t want to speculate on what they might do, but Knoxville-Knox County having something to do with Hawkins County — most people in Knoxville don’t even know where Rogersville or Church Hill is. They certainly aren’t going to know where Mountain City is, or Unicoi County. But they got the contract.”
At the start of the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, the Hawkins County IDB will no longer be facilitating the WIOA program for Hawkins and Hancock counties.
The IDB’s participation in the WIOA has been a source of confusion for some members of the public, and even some elected officials, due to the federal pass-through dollars that come through the IDB’s budget.
This fiscal year the WIOA program serving Hawkins and Hancock counties received $350,000 in federal funding that passed through the IDB’s budget, but was used solely for the WIOA program and can’t be used for anything else.
“It didn’t cost Hawkins County one red cent, but the more I tried to explain that, the less people understood about what that was,” Elkins said. “Now they won’t have a problem with it, because it will be gone.”
A budget amendment will be forwarded to the County Commission to reflect the three remaining months in the 2018-19 fiscal year before the KCCAC takes over.
Elkins added, “What we’re trying to do now is convince the folks in Knoxville, because of the quality of the work of (local WIOA staff), to hire them. Every year when we went before Walters State, they awarded it back to us hands down. Our numbers and our success rate was so much higher than the other counties, it was a no-brainer.”