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 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

In Case You Missed It: "Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity"

Last month, CLASP's Youth Team hosted “Investing in Boys and Young Men of Color: The Promise and Opportunity,” a briefing on the education and employment solutions that communities of color have implemented for boys ages 12-24. It also lifted up the voices of young men who these innovative programs are helping to transform. The event was co-sponsored by PolicyLink, the National Council of La Raza, the Executive Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Young Men of Color, and the Institute for Black Male Achievement.

Among the many nuggets of wisdom shared were three framing ideas put forth by keynote speaker Joshua DuBois, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He said that when working with and supporting young men of color, you must first take the time to know their stories. Second, you must like them in spite of their stories. And third, you must give them the tools they need to write the next chapter of their lives.

These themes were passionately reinforced by the four young men who spoke. They each named a particular individual who took a special interest in them, demonstrated love, and pushed them toward greatness. These young men also felt a tremendous responsibility to give back to their communities to help other youth succeed. Their stories of triumph over chronic trauma and poverty demonstrated the tremendous value of quality youth education and employment programs.

The panel of community leaders shared elements of their models of effective engagement with young men in an age group that many have written off. Through their work, young men have had their eyes opened to their value and place in society, and been equipped with skills to be successful in postsecondary pursuits and careers of their choosing. The community leaders also shared important perspectives on how current public policy is impeding their ability to work with young men and suggested common sense solutions.

Click here to learn more about the participants and view videos about youth education and employment programs.

You can also access related policy briefs on education, employment, and healthy communities.

Watch highlights of the briefing here, and hear the young men's stories-- Wilmer, Anjel, Brandon, and Troy

Jul 10, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Good News for Programs Serving Disadvantaged Youth: WIOA Passes the House

By Kisha Bird

Yesterday, something really big happened here in Washington, DC – the legislative process worked and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was reauthorized.  Long overdue, the Act has been up for reauthorization since 2003. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the renamed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) with overwhelming support from members across both sides of the aisle by a vote of 415-6. CLASP applauds Congress and the bipartisan leadership in the House for their commitment to usher this critical bill to passage. WIOA includes significant improvements to ensure low-income youth and adults have access to the skills they need for full participation in the American workforce

CLASP has been a long-time advocate of many of these improvements including a wider range of services (such as transitional jobs) for low-skill, low-income adults and individuals with barriers to employment; support for career pathways, integrated education and training; and other approaches to adult education that allow for increased transitions to and success in postsecondary education.

In particular, Title I of WIOA includes several significant provisions that CLASP and the Campaign for Youth have advocated for, including redirecting resources to serve out-of-school youth and those who face the greatest challenges; expanding age eligibility to 24; and making it easier for local communities to serve young people by addressing eligibility issues.

While the funding authorized in WIOA is not commensurate to the scale of our national youth employment crisis, it would provide dedicated resources for states and local areas to address the work and education needs among young people living in highly distressed communities, which have a disproportionate number of young people of color, and implement an array of effective employment, education, and youth development strategies that are also responsive to the workforce needs of employers. 

The passage of WIOA in both the Senate and the House demonstrates that the legislative process can still work if the needs of Americans are put ahead of politics; the bill now awaits President Obama’s signature. CLASP will release a detailed analysis of WIOA’s implications for low-income youth and adults and is eager to work with all levels of government to help ensure its successful implementation. 

If you have questions about the statute, its implementation or a specific technical assistance suggestion or request, please contact:

Kisha Bird, Senior Policy Analyst, Youth Policy at 

Marcie Foster, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success at

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