Atlanta’s troubled jobs agency seeks changes

Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com
Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Six months after Atlanta’s troubled job training program lost $1.3 million in federal grant money, officials are working on a plan to integrate the service with the city’s economic development efforts.

Eloisa Klementich, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, told a city council committee on Tuesday that she hopes to have a plan for integrating WorkSource Atlanta with her agency by early August.

“We want to engage stakeholders,” to find out the needs of each, Klementich told members of the Community Development and Human Services Committee. She said she and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have been discussing the idea for more than a year.

Until the plan is done, Klementich said, she won’t have specifics about changes to WorkSource.

Cities such as Denver and San Francisco have integrated their economic development and job training, and Klementich believes having both under one roof makes sense. It would streamline the process for businesses seeking workers and vice versa.

Several committee members expressed support, though Chairperson Natalyn Archibong reminded Klementich that WorkSource was built to serve people, especially those on the low end of the income spectrum. It was not created to serve the needs of Fortune 500 companies, she said.

Kimberlyn Daniel was appointed by Bottoms as the interim executive director of WorkSource last July to guide the agency through its most recent problems.

Read about WorkSource’s troubled past.

In a press release, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms thanked Daniel for her leadership and said that a national search is underway for a new executive director of WorkSource. It’s unclear if Daniel, who remains in the position for now, is a candidate.

The agency has been troubled for decades. Its past problems include a federal investigation into a phony jobs program run by a WorkSource contractor and two scathing reviews of the agency. A city auditor suggested it be shut down in 2013, and a later review by consultants cited lack of leadership and other problems. It has churned through five directors or interim directors over the past six years.

Last October, WorkSource lost a $1.3 million federal grant for training the unemployed because it went unused, and it was in danger of losing other grants in 2019.

A spokesman for WorkSource told the committee the endangered grants have been spent or obligated. Another grant, for the TechHire program, aimed at giving high-tech skills to trainees, is still being reviewed by federal authorities. WorkSource has spent $300,000 of the $4 million grant, but can’t spend more until it gets federal approval.