In Focus

Jul 22, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

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. 

Jul 16, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

CLASP to Present at Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century Conference

By Manuela Ekowo and Vickie Choitz

On October 15-17, key leaders in workforce development will gather for Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. The conference is sponsored by the Atlanta and Kansas City Federal Reserve Banks and the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Participants will explore strategies to expand educational and economic opportunity for job seekers, students, and workers—especially those who face the greatest difficulties in the labor market—while meeting employers’ need for a highly skilled workforce.  The conference will also discuss how federal, state, and local/regional governments; educational institutions; businesses; and nonprofits can best deliver effective solutions.

Vickie Choitz, CLASP’s senior policy analyst and director of the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, will speak at a workshop on emerging strategies that are transforming how individuals are educated and trained.

Improving the skills of lower-skilled, low-income individuals and ensuring our workforce has enough skilled workers for the jobs in demand will require thoughtful action and ongoing conversation. Conference participants will engage in discussions around how economic trends are changing the nature of work, the labor market, education and workforce institutions, public policy, and how we measure success through research, evaluation, and data.

Workforce development providers; postsecondary educators; federal, state, and local policymakers; community-based organizations; researchers; business; the philanthropic community; and students are encouraged to attend.

The October conference will precede the 2015 release of the Federal Reserve Banks’ and the Heldrich Center’s book Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century. CLASP has been invited to write a case study on the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways’ and Minnesota’s FastTRAC program, a key initiative in Minnesota’s “suite” of career pathways. The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, a collaboration of CLASP and ten leading career pathway states, was launched to develop a shared understanding of quality career pathway systems; the Alliance recently released and will soon implement a framework of system performance indicators and participant metrics that partners can use to assess and continuously improve their career pathway systems. The case study is co-authored by Whitney Smith of the Joyce Foundation and Thomas Norman of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

To register for the conference, click here. Receive the early bird rate of $245 by registering before midnight Friday, July 18, 2014 (EST). If you have immediate questions about conference registration, contact Kyan Bishop at kyan.bishop@atl.frb.org.

Jul 10, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Congress Revitalizes Job Training and Workforce Development Programs with the Passage of WIOA

By Kisha Bird and Marcie Foster

Last evening, the House passed the Senate-approved Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in a near-unanimous vote of 415-6. With this action, the bill will now move to President Obama who is expected to sign the bill into law.

WIOA reauthorizes the nation’s workforce development and adult education programs and would replace the current Workforce Investment Act, which was enacted in 1998. At a time of sustained unemployment in many communities, these programs are designed to help young people and adult workers prepare for work or further education, find jobs, and build the skills employers need.

Workforce development and adult education are key strategies that help to lift people out of poverty. We applaud Congress for taking this important first step to create a workforce development system that better enables states and communities to meet the needs of low-income workers by improving connections to employment and training opportunities that will lead to economic prosperity for themselves and their families. CLASP has long-advocated for workforce development policies that are designed to meet the unique needs of America’s most vulnerable workers and prevent low-income adults and disadvantaged youth from falling further behind and being  locked out of the opportunity to earn credentials, enter, and advance in the workplace. We are delighted to see many of these ideas in the legislation.

WIOA improves current workforce and adult education programs in many ways and creates the conditions for wider adoption of career pathways and other strategies, such as transitional jobs, that hold promise for raising the skills and improving economic prospects for low-income and low-skilled adults and youth. It also includes several significant provisions that will increase the focus on comprehensive programming for out-of-school youth and those who face the greatest challenges to education and employment.  

At the national level, a key next step will be to address the capacity of the workforce development system, including its ability to achieve the full promise of the WIOA reforms. Congress should strengthen its commitment to the nation’s workers by providing adequate resources to ensure that improved services reach those who need them. Funding for workforce and adult education programs has declined by 10 percent or more since 2010, even though unemployment levels and the need for services in many communities remain unacceptably high.  Youth and people of color continue to face steep obstacles to entering the workforce and having full-time employment with family-sustaining wages. Additionally, adult education programs are serving only 5 percent of those with low literacy levels after years of decreases in both funding and enrollment.

The proposed bill, to its credit, authorizes modest increases in funding for these programs between 2015 and 2020. While the new provisions and these modest increases will allow important progress at the state and local level, without further expansion of capacity, states and local communities will fall short of the full promise of the reforms to ensure that services are accessible and available to individuals who have low education and skill levels and who face challenges in the labor market.

At the state and local level, the next step is to seize the momentum of the anticipated enactment to realize the opportunities offered by this important legislation.  CLASP will release a detailed analysis of WIOA’s implications for low-income youth and adults and anticipates working closely with leaders and advocates in states and local communities over the coming months to support the progress available through its enactment for low-income youth and adults. If you have questions about the statute or its implementation or a specific technical assistance suggestion or request, please contact;

Kisha Bird, Senior Policy Analyst, Youth Policy at kbird@clasp.org 

Marcie Foster, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success at mwmfoster@clasp.org

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