Education and training are drivers of economic mobility and opportunity. CLASP works to strengthen federal and state education and training policy to ensure that low-wage workers and low-income individuals can enter and advance in the labor market, and to make sure that American businesses have access to workers with skills they need to compete. Transitional jobs, career exploration, job placement, and access to work supports such as child care also are essential for helping individuals get better jobs, succeed in education and training, and advance along a career pathway.

CLASP also develops and advocates for policies that connect individuals with low basic skills to postsecondary education and jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. Learn more about our Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success (C-PES) initiative.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Becomes Law; CLASP Looks toward Implementation

By Marcie Foster, Kisha Bird and Evelyn Ganzglass

On Tuesday, July 22, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), enacted by large bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate, after 11 years of debate to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.The White House is also releasing its Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity plan to expand pathways to the middle class. The plan includes expanding many effective strategies CLASP has promoted that better prepare disadvantaged adults and youth to be successful in the workplace.

At a time of sustained unemployment in many communities, the programs in WIOA are designed to help young people and adult workers prepare for work or further education, find jobs, and build the skills employers need. We applaud Congress for acting with near unanimity in taking this important step to create a workforce development system that better enables states and communities to connect low-income youth and adults to employment and training opportunities that lead to economic prosperity for themselves and their families. And we thank President Obama for moving so quickly to enact this law.

Key themes in the bill include:

  • An emphasis on the alignment of all core programs authorized in the bill, including a requirement for unified planning and reporting on a shared set of performance measures across these programs. These steps offer the potential for streamlining and significantly improving service delivery to participants, particularly low-income, low-skilled individuals.
  • A heightened focus on providing training and helping participants prepare for postsecondary education to improve their success in the labor market.
  • Greater focus on and new vehicles for addressing the needs of youth and adults who have significant barriers to employment.
  • Strong support for implementation of innovative adult education models such as integrated education and training, career pathways and sector strategies.
  • A recognition—through  the incorporation of measureable skill gains as an interim indicator of progress and required use of a performance adjustment model—that some workers will need more intensive assistance and additional time in the core programs.

CLASP will be releasing a detailed analysis of WIOA’s implications for low-income and low-skilled youth and adults in the coming weeks. We anticipate working closely with leaders and advocates in states and local communities over the coming year to support the implementation and expansion of workforce systems, policies, and practices that are grounded in research and experience, while also improving the education and employability of low-income people.  In addition, we will work to ensure that newly designed regulations fully implement the bill’s focus on serving America’s most vulnerable workers.

Specifically, we will work collectively to ensure that, through implementation:

  • States and localities leverage the unified planning requirement to partner with key education and human service systems to better address the needs of individuals with barriers to employment. 
  • Performance metrics will improve services to those with barriers rather than be a disincentive.
  • Effective employment and education strategies, such as integrated education, career pathways, and transitional jobs are implemented at scale.
  • Low-income individuals and out-of-school youth are a priority for the provision of services, as intended in the legislation.
  • The provision of youth services maximizes opportunities to better serve older youth ages 16 to 24 across Title I and Title II.

While the passage of WIOA is an historical and significant event, a key next step will be to increase the capacity of the workforce development and adult education systems to achieve the goals of WIOA. Congress should strengthen its commitment to the nation’s workers by providing adequate resources to ensure that improved services reach those who need them. Although modest increases in funding for core programs are authorized in the bill, programs suffered such damaging recent cuts that the FY2017 authorized funding levels in the bill would only restore funding to FY2010 levels. For workforce development programs to have a substantial impact on the country’s unemployed and low-skilled workers, Congress must take steps to eliminate sequestration and the budget caps, both of which are dampening the economic recovery.

Leading up to WIOA’s implementation date of July 2015, the Departments of Education and Labor will be developing regulations and guidance for states and local communities on how to implement the new law. CLASP commends Congress and the Congressional staffers who worked on this important bill and we look forward to working with federal officials, states and local communities to strengthen existing programs and take advantage of the opportunities set forth in the bill to better serve low-income and low-skilled workers. 

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