Are students and taxpayers being cheated by The Agency for Workforce Innovation and its education service providers?
Miami Mirror – True Reflections
SOUTH FLORIDA WORKFORCE
Executive Director Rick Beasley’s Astonishing Claim
He said he is determined to build on such successes.
October 26, 2010 Miami Mirror by David Arthur Walters Miami Beach, Florida The percentage given by South Florida Workforce Director Rick Beasley in his 24 June 2010 Miami Herald editorial entitled ‘Accountability is our priority’ was astonishing if not incredible on its face: “The greatest proof of our operational accountability can be seen in our improved performance,” Mr. Beasley effused. “For example, 96% of the adult and laid-off workers who received training funded by South Florida Workforce got a job, according to state official data. Additionally, 89% of these workers were found to still be employed six months after receiving training.” Indeed, his claim elicited guffaws from a South Florida Workforce staff member who sells training programs offered by educational institutions identified in South Florida Workforce literature as Workforce “partners,” such as Miami Dade College. The staff member did not want to be identified for fear of being fired by Mr. Beasley. It’s an easy sell for easy money. The student pays nothing for the government funded programs, and the providers of training services have not been regularly held accountable for their performance. There has been a long line of students to get training dollars, which are inadequate during these hard times, especially given the waste. South Florida Workforce spent $12,000,000 on training in 2009. Incidentally, Mr. Beasley presented Miami Dade College with a $1,000,000 check in 2009, to buy materials such as textbooks and uniforms for nursing students and to help fund a Take Stock in Children program. According to a report filed by Toluse Olorrunipa and published by the Miami Herald on 11 May 2010, South Florida Workforce performance has been abysmal. Indeed, Mr. Beasley admitted that the South Florida Workforce had one the worst performances records in the state when he took over in 2005, but he thinks he has made remarkable improvements. Yet, in 2010, reportedly fewer than 10% of students funded by South Florida Workforce funders wound up in jobs over the past three years related to the training. Few schools had returned any of the undeserved tuition, which can run up to $10,500 per student. Complaints were made about the appearance of impropriety, i.e. an apparent conflict of interest: representatives of institutions receiving money are on the investment board awarding it. For instance, Donna Jennings, dean of workforce education and development at Miami Dade College was reportedly on the investment board.
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Miami Mirror – True Reflections
Money going to bad performers actually increased, according to the newspaper report. Workforce record-keeping was so badly done that it is impossible to come up with credible numbers. The training centers themselves said the success rate since 2007 was 29.3%. Mr. Beasley, in marked denial, claimed the real success rate was 69.4%. In any event, millions had been lost while, according to Carlos Manrique, a director on the local Workforce investment board, Mr. Beasley just let the money slide away, paying no attention to it. Information is not readily available no matter how skewed or inaccurate it might be, not even to investment board directors; Mr. Manrique actually had to file a formal public records request to get information about refunds made by the training centers. Mr. Manrique has not yet responded to a request for information regarding Mr. Beasley’s overall performance and management style. Again, the success rate claimed for the previous three years was the 29.3% claimed by the training centers or the 69.4% claimed by Mr. Beasley in May 2010. Yet in June 2010 Mr. Beasley would apparently have us imply from his statement that the current success rate is an astounding 96%. How can that be? A cynical person might think that it might have something to do with his own performance review. Denishia Robinson, Public Information Specialist for the Agency for Workforce Innovation has not yet responded to our request for Mr. Beasley’s beginning and current salary, and for a copy of the agreement between South Florida Workforce and its partner Miami Dade College. And Adriane Grant, Director of External Affairs for Workforce Florida, Inc., the independent overseer of the Agency for Workforce Innovation, has not yet responded to our request to discuss Mr. Beasley’s performance or nonperformance. To be fair, Mr. Beasley did not explicitly state that the training programs were completed or that the jobs obtained were in fields related to the training. He said: “96% of the adult and laid-off workers who received training funded by South Florida Workforce got a job, according to state official data. Additionally, 89% of these workers were found to still be employed six months after receiving training.” Those numbers could include someone who enrolled in training, dropped out after a few days, and got a job in an entirely unrelated field. Perhaps someone who gave up on becoming a public relations specialist, and out of desperation got a job serving burgers at Burger King, might be counted as training success because serving burgers calls for relations with the public. Who knows what is behind the numbers? What the “proud” Mr. Beasley has bragged about may amount to virtually nothing. For all know, all the improvements he otherwise lists may be rhetorical instead of real. We note that one of Mr. Beasley’s job qualifications, for a starting salary of $150,000 $180,000, was “Ability to work effectively with the media.” That is, he must have public relation skills, which includes “Ability to make effective public presentations.” He must put people first, respect people, command their respect, and motivate them. And he had to have a bachelor’s degree along with “some” working knowledge of state and federal funding sources along with knowledge of regulations. The deadline for applications was 23 May 2005, and he was hired.
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Miami Mirror – True Reflections
The job description did not say that he must be able to deceive people, to stonewall the media, to respond to inquiries with silence or to respond evasively, or otherwise avoid responsibility and accountability. Of course if the state and federal government, the taxpayers, the workforce including his own employees, and the media do not hold him accountable, that is not his fault. Therefore I sent him the following request, wherein I courteously gave him the benefit of the doubt, on 4 June 2010: Rick Beasley, Director SOUTH FLORIDA WORKFORCE Re: Miami Herald June 4, 2010 op ed 'Accountability is our priority' Dear Mr. Beasley: Congratulations and thank you for the stellar performance of South Florida Workforce in obtaining sustained employment for workers who received training: "96 percent of the adult and laid-off workers who received training funded by South Florida Workforce got a job, according to state official data. Additionally, 89 percent of those workers were found to still be employed six months after receiving training." The statistics quoted seem to be out of sync with previous Miami Herald reports that refunds were being or might be sought from the institutions doing the training because many students were not completing the programs. Would you please comment on that issue, and e-mail me a copy of the statistical report you are referring to in your article? Thank you! David Arthur Walters Journalist
I did not receive a reply from Mr. Beasley to my original message or to follow-ups, not until I mentioned that I would proceed to blow a whistle without him. And then he still did not provide me with the statistical report, or his explanation for the seeming discrepancy. One might think that a person skilled in public relations would be happy to do just that.