July | August 2017







How States are Innovating with the Workforce
Innovation Opportunity Act

By Donna Counts, policy analyst
In a recent CSG eCademy webinar, Workforce Development: How States are Innovating with WIOA, three workforce development experts offered suggestions for successful Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, or WIOA, implementation.  
James Rzepkowski, assistant secretary in the Maryland Department of Labor, said Maryland embraced WIOA as an opportunity to improve services and create a workforce system. 
“Under the prior law, we had lots of silos of excellence,” he said. “We created a workforce system by taking away the silos and breaking down barriers between agencies.”
In Maryland, the timing for WIOA implementation was perfect because Gov. Larry Hogan had just taken office.
“To develop the workforce plan we brought together the Department of Labor, the Department for Human Resources and the Department of the Education,” Rzepkowski said. “The state’s workforce plan represents the first time in Maryland’s history that the workforce development activities of the three state agencies were produced in one document.” 
Rzepkowski said the plan also focused on people rather than performance.
“We felt that if we serve the customer and do what is right by the customer, performance will follow,” he said.  
“The key to Maryland’s success so far was collaboration,” Rzepkowski said. “After the state plan was adopted we needed to make sure the state agencies, local agencies and other partners remained engaged. A WIOA Alignment group meets monthly to make sure the leaders and the people in the field are on the same message.” 
Rzepkowski also discussed the integration of apprenticeships in WIOA.
“We transferred the Office of Apprenticeships from the Division of Labor and Industry to the Division of Workforce and Adult Learning, and that has been transformative,” he said. “Since that time we have been able to triple the staff with the encouragement of a U.S. Department of Labor grant. This has given them the opportunity to expand traditional and non-traditional apprenticeships.” 
Rzepkowski then highlighted EARN Maryland, which stands for Employment Advancement Right Now. 
“It is an industry-driven workforce program with over 40 different partnerships involving more than 650 businesses,” he said.
Amy Beller with the Iowa Registered Apprenticeship Program discussed Iowa’s commitment to integrating registered apprenticeships in WIOA. 
Iowa received an Apprenticeship USA Accelerator State Expansion grant in fall of 2016 and Beller was hired to oversee the program. 
“I began talking with staff in the Workforce Development office, members of the one-stop IowaWorks offices, and other WIOA partners,” Beller said. “What I learned was that we needed integrated statewide training to kick-off the program. We have now trained over 200 WIOA partner staff.”   
The training sessions included a registered apprenticeship 101 class, training on how to introduce registered apprenticeships to businesses, and an in-depth training with IowaWorks one-stop centers. 
To make the system work well, IowaWorks staff have an individual point of contact at the state Office of Apprenticeship. In addition, a detailed checklist is used to make sure that one-stop centers, job seeker services and business services agencies work together effectively. 
 “One of the biggest priorities of the apprenticeship grant is to build partnerships and to make sure integration works,” Beller said.
She described the partnership with the Iowa Department of Corrections, which has been one of the registered apprenticeship leaders.   
“They have 19 occupations and over 150 people enrolled in registered apprenticeships,” she said. “They have an outstanding program and help to connect re-entering citizens with great-paying jobs.” 
Beller then highlighted the Future Ready Iowa initiative, which was created by Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds to build Iowa’s pipeline for careers of today and tomorrow. The goal of the Future Ready Iowa initiative is for 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. 
Sherri Moses with the Reentry and Employment Program at the CSG Justice Center discussed how people with criminal records could be served by WIOA. 
“Seventy-four million adults have an arrest or conviction record,” she said. “Men with criminal records account for 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54. Because of this, corrections and workforce development systems have overlapping populations and goals.”
“State WIOA plans are required to address how people with barriers to employment will be served by the workforce system, and ex-offenders are one of the groups of people identified,” Moses said. “One-stop centers may provide staff with specialized training to assist formerly incarcerated job seekers on how to discuss a criminal record in a resume or job interview. Also, brochures and signs posted at centers aimed at people with criminal records and make job seekers feel more welcome.” 
Moses then outlined possible funding sources. 
“WIOA Title II includes a requirement that states provide correctional education and requires that not more than 20 percent of funds provided be used for correctional education,” Moses said.  
She said another funding option was that 15 percent of Title I funding could be used for special initiatives, and could be used to adapt existing workforce strategies to the needs of people with criminal records.