Are States Optimizing WIOA’s Promise to Achieve Equity?

By Judy Mortrude and Anna Cielinski

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides funding and guidance for states to innovate in best serving low-income people. CLASP has encouraged states to use a number of WIOA’s policy levers to do so, for instance by:

The Department of Labor’s recently released 2016 State Performance Reports provide an initial look into the first full year of WIOA implementation. A comparison of two Great Lakes states shows that policymakers are choosing to invest their WIOA resources differently.

In these neighboring states, there’s significant difference in Measurable Skill Gain (MSG) attainment and co-enrollment. One explanation for the differences is that the states are using important equity levers as they implement WIOA. Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development has developed policies that can drive system change and help foster innovative services. This includes the state’s Measurable Skill Gain Policy that clearly aligns the assessments used between workforce development and adult basic education systems to support career pathways for individuals with barriers to employment. Wisconsin is also using state policies to elevate the importance of priority of service and individuals with barriers to employment and has provided guidance on performance accountability in co-enrollment scenarios.

Minnesota has been slower to seize the opportunities of WIOA reauthorization to create new policies. The state’s December 2018 Common Performance Measures Workgroup report only begins to lay the groundwork for a state policy on Measurable Skill Gain. Moreover, the state has not finalized its WIOA Adult Eligibility and Priority of Service policy.

Clearly, to achieve the promise of WIOA, states need to develop policies on these key equity opportunities. Check out the 2016 State Performance Reports to see how your state measures up.