In July 2014, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—after it passed with virtually unanimous bipartisan support in Congress — the first update to the nation’s core workforce training programs in 16 years. Overall, the goal of the WIOA is to improve connections to employment and training opportunities that lead to economic prosperity for workers and their families. While there are several changes to the new WIOA law that are significant, there are some key changes that practitioners should be aware:
- Hardest to serve now a training priority: Citizens who are on to public assistance recipients, other low-income individuals, and individuals who are basic skills deficient must be given priority access to higher-intensity career services and training. This is an important changes because in the past, while many states did make utilizing one stop career centers a requirement to receiving public assistance, placing these citizens into a training program was not;
- Reporting System change: In addition Workforce Investment Boards to report the number of individuals with barriers to employment served by each core program, with specific breakdowns by subpopulation. Boards must also report on the number of individuals with barriers to employment that are served by the adult and dislocated worker program, with specific breakdowns by subpopulation, race, ethnicity, sex, and age;
- Changing of On the Job (OJT) employer reimbursement: The New WIOA law supports increased use of on-the job training by increasing the reimbursement rates to participating employers from 50 percent to 75 percent of wages;
- Gives flexibility to States and local governments more options to provide training: There are several provisions in the WIOA law that provide more flexible training delivery options for state and local governments to meet the needs of low-income individuals. This includes allowing local areas to contract directly with colleges or eligible training providers to supply training for jobs in high-demand occupations or industry sectors (originally funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)). In addition, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) may use a portion of local funds for pay-for-performance contracts as a form of training delivery. NOTE: This provision gives state and local Workforce Investment Boards the option, it does not mean it has to provide more pay for performance contracts; and
- Focus on Out of School Youth: WIOA now requires that at least 75 percent of available state-wide youth funds and 75 percent of its youth funds available to local areas be spent on workforce investment services for out-of-school youth. This is an increase from 30 percent under WIA. This redirected funding gives states and local communities dedicated resources to implement effective employment, education, and youth development strategies for the most vulnerable young people in highly distressed communities.
Ways to be Part of the Process
These specific changes in focus opens a variety of doors where local Workforce investment boards and nonprofit and grassroots practitioners can better partner in order to better serve low income communities. WIOA presents the opportunity for us to re-think the way we serve our customers. We have a chance to redesign systems, processes, even our brick and mortar centers. Your region may already be tackling big issues and tough questions. The State plans highlighting how each state will implement the new WIOA guidelines are due to the federal agencies tentatively in March 2016. So how can practitioners influence the plan and position themselves to become partners with Workforce Investment Boards?
- Identify and meet with your State and Local WIB executive director and the various members of the existing boards. It is important that your organization knows who is on the existing board. Each board must contain a certain number of Business Representatives, Labor Representatives, Adult Education/Literacy Representatives, Vocational Rehabilitation Representatives, Higher Education Representatives and Economic Development Representatives. To identify your local and state Workforce Investment Board, visit http://www.servicelocator.org/workforcecontacts.asp
- Create marketing materials specifically tailored to workforce development: A typical error in nonprofit marketing many practitioners make is submitting the boilerplate marketing materials to a specific audience. What a practitioner should send to a Workforce Investment Board representative are materials that specifically answer the question “How do my services help people become employed.” This answer must be qualitative and quantitative. Also, the communication or materials submitted, practitioners should mention the specific barriers removed. For example, a fatherhood group should submit materials on how many fathers they helped gain employment and how their program removed barriers such as child support issues or self-efficacy issues that prohibited that person form obtaining a job.
- Review and comment on your state’s current and potential new strategic plan and highlight ways the new plan can be improved: For many states, the existing Workforce Investment Plan will be used as the historical reference point. It is important that you educate yourself not only on the existing plan, but also on the history of your state’s workforce development strategy. Ask your state and local WIB directors for a copy of the existing plan and if they have completed their new plan.
- Participate and/or create public engagement opportunities, such as webinars and public meetings: As practitioners contact their local and state Workforce Investment Boards, they should ask specifically if there will be any public hearing forums regarding the new workforce plans that need to be submitted. If so, be sure to attend and offer statements. Also, practitioners need to host/coordinate meetings for local organizations to discuss WIOA state plans. In these meetings, practitioners should be sure to invite leadership from state and agencies and to communicate those findings from these meetings to these agencies.
For more information on national WIOA implementation, including links to guidance are posted on the Employment and Training Administration’s WIOA Resource Page at www.doleta.gov/WIOA. Additionally, official ETA guidance on WIOA will be posted on ETA’s advisory Web site, http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives.
For more information or Technical Assistance on how to develop a workforce development strategy, please contact Gerald T. Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 246-1294.