July | August 2017

By Jennifer Ginn, CSG Associate Editor
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act—also known as WIOA—will bring some big changes to states, according to Bryan Wilson, state policy director of the National Skills Coalition. The act, signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014, replaced the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
Wilson said the act encompasses two broad strategies for workforce development—sector partnerships and career pathways.
“States and local workforce boards will have to have a system of partnerships where the employers in the industry sector sit down with the education and training providers who prepare workers for that sector to say what are the skill gaps in their sector and devise a plan to close those gaps and implement that plan,” he said.
With career pathways, Wilson said, the core programs authorized by WIOA—such as Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth formula programs and certain Rehabilitation Act programs—will need to work together to provide everything a person needs to get back into the workforce, from academic instruction to occupational skills training.
“In order to implement the law successfully, leadership at every level of the system is critical,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said. “Governors, mayors, county commissioners and their staff, along with workforce boards and service providers, all have important roles to play. States should begin talking strategically with local and regional partners to develop strategies for shared planning and program management.”
In general, provisions in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act take effect July 1, 2015. State unified and local plans and the performance accountability measures take effect July 1, 2016.
“I think, in general, we see this law as an improvement, which is good. I think there are some opportunities,” said Thomas Smith, Delaware’s director for the Division of Employment and Training.

Business Involvement Emphasized

WIOA stresses a greater role for the business sector in planning programs and services.
Local workforce boards, along with representatives from secondary and higher education institutions, are required to be involved in the develop­ment and implementation of career pathways that align employment, training, education and support services. The plans also should pay special attention to those who have barriers to employment.

Youth Funds Target Those not in School

Seventy-five percent of funding for youth services now must be spent on out-of-school youth. Only 30 percent of the funding previously was required to be used for out-of-school programs.
“I think probably the biggest challenge in Delaware was the change in youth funding,” said Thomas Smith, Delaware’s director for the Division of Employment and Training. “Prior to this law, we were about 55 percent in school and 45 out of school, so that was a pretty big difference.”
Two other major changes to the youth programs are likely to impact states. The eligibility age for services was raised from 21 to 24 and at least 20 percent of the funding must be spent on work-based learning, such as internships or apprenticeships.

Core Programs Authorized Under WIOA

WIOA authorizes several main employment and training programs used in the states, including:

Common Metrics Gauge Program Effectiveness

All core programs authorized by WIOA—such as the Wagner-Peyser Employment Service Program and the Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth formula programs—will be required to report on a common set of performance indicators, including the number of people employed, median wages, the number of people who earned a credential and measurable gains in skills.
All core programs also will have to measure the effectiveness of their service to employers.
“As I travel the country and work with state and local boards, I suggest that in the way (the Workforce Investment Act) acknowledged data, WIOA is obsessed with data. I think it’s critical,” said Ron Painter, CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards.