There is widespread concern that the July 1 shutdown of America’s Job Bank-which was the country’s first national job site on the Internet and one of the biggest-will cause problems for employers, job seekers and states. And participants at three feedback sessions sponsored by the Labor Department in 2003 gave America’s Job Bank a solid endorsement, according to a report summarizing the seminars. The termination of the governing group adds to questions about how seriously the Labor Department valued the views of those with a stake in America’s Job Bank.
The Department of Labor declined to comment on the group, known as the National Electronic Tools Board.
But a document on the Labor Department’s Web site defines the group: "The National Electronic Tools Board, composed of Federal, State, and private-nonprofit members is the governing body for America's Career Kit," states the document. America’s Career Kit is defined in the document as America’s Job Bank, a career information Web site called America’s Career InfoNet and two other government tools.
The document describes a pact beginning in 2001 between the Labor Department and Internet job board Monster. It indicates that the National Electronic Tools Board had a significant say in the agreement: "This Board, at its meeting of June 8, 2001, reviewed and recommended its approval of the collaboration described in this agreement."
The document also says the board was created by an agreement between the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, a group of state administrators of workforce programs and services.
The board, also known as NET Board, was formed around 2000, says David Morman, a former Labor Department official who helped design and run America’s Job Bank. Morman says the group got off the ground at the urging of Emily DeRocco, who was then head of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. DeRocco took the reins of the Employment and Training Administration in 2001. There, she eventually developed a different attitude toward NET Board, Morman says.
He says he repeatedly asked about convening the group in 2003, but DeRocco and her deputy, Mason Bishop, did not want to hold a meeting. When it became clear to him that the group was not going to meet again, he asked if he could send a letter to NET Board members announcing the termination of the group and thanking them for their service. DeRocco and Bishop would not approve that either, he says.
Rich Hobbie, the current executive director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, confirms that NET Board is no longer. "It died very slowly," he says.
Al St. Martin, former deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Economic Security, recalls the organization fading away around 2003.
"It just sort of died on the vine," he says. St. Martin says that at a 2001 NET Board meeting in Orlando, Florida, an assistant to DeRocco "commented to me that he did not see why people were meeting on matters that were the responsibility for ETA to determine and carry out." St. Martin paraphrased the official, whose name he couldn’t recall, as saying: "We know what we are going to do, but we have to meet on everything. This is such a waste."
It was not possible to get a response to questions about NET Board from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Labor Department informedWorkforce Management in mid-June that it would no longer respond to the publication’s questions related to the closing of America’s Job Bank, saying it had answered numerousWorkforce Management queries on the subject over the past year.
"NET Board was intended to be a collaborative partnership," Morman says, "It was a governance structure, not just any advisory board."