Discusses required changes to the public workforce development system under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, as compared with the Workforce Investment Act, and presents strategies that might improve employment outcomes for youth and people with barriers to employment under the new law.

“After years of continuing resolutions, Congress replaced the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA), with strong bipartisan support. WIOA continues WIA’s emphasis on universal services for both job seekers and employers. However, the new law includes provisions intended to improve the workforce development system overall: more responsive services to businesses, increased access to training, better alignment between training and education programs, revised accountability requirements that will improve results, expanded public access to information about training programs that will allow workers to make more informed decisions about career options, and increased services for people with barriers to employment” (p.1).

“This brief provides key information on strategies that may help state and local agencies determine the best methods for serving low-income adults and youth….[S]tate and local workforce agencies and boards are introducing changes mandated by WIOA and deciding how they will help low-income and disadvantaged youth train for, find, and retain employment” (p.13).

Specifically, “[t]his brief examines how services for low-income adults and youth may evolve under [WIOA], given experiences under WIA. It begins with an overview of workforce development policy, followed by a summary of how WIA served low-income people. Next is a discussion of effective workforce development strategies that states and localities have developed to more effectively help low-income people prepare for successful careers. Such strategies could be considered more widely as states fully implement WIOA” (p.2).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Under WIOA, the same services are available, but the core and intensive categories have been collapsed into a category called ‘career services.’ As a means of expanding access to training, it is no longer necessary to follow a particular sequence of services” (p.3). “In addition to a continued emphasis on services for veterans and the unemployed, WIOA further expands the focus on services for people with disabilities and others facing specific barriers to employment” (p.3). Under WIOA: • “Regardless of funding availability, priority must be given to public assistance recipients, low-income adults, and adults deficient in basic skills. • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a required workforce system partner, unless the governor opts out. • Training is an option for all, with no required sequence of services. • Eligibility [for youth] is increased to age 24. • At least 75 percent of youth funds go to out-of-school youth” (p.5). “WIOA provides new opportunities and continued flexibility for serving adults and youth with barriers to employment” (p.8). Strategies include: • On-the-job training (p.8) • Registered apprenticeships (p.9) • Career pathways and other industry-focused training (p.10) • Career coaching and counseling (p.11) • Formal mentoring models for youth (p.11) • Coordination of the workforce system with other systems (p.12) “Based on the evidence and issues…four considerations for policy and practice may be particularly relevant: • Will WIOA-funded programs enroll more low-income people and people with barriers to employment than they have in the past?.... • Do the new provisions in WIOA allow local programs to more effectively serve people with barriers to employment?.... • If the system places higher priority on low-skilled workers and those with barriers to employment, how, if at all, does this change employer relations or engagement, or planning for career and skills development for jobs in demand? • If federal funding for workforce development programs remains stagnant or decreases, how will state and local agencies maintain or improve cost-effectiveness when selecting strategies for serving adults and youth with employment barriers? These questions are important for state and local agency administrators developing strategic plans….[and] can form the basis for research questions and pilot or demonstration programs that could build evidence about effective strategies for serving low-skilled workers” (p.13). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)