WIOA State Plan Updates; Make Your Voice Heard

By Judy Mortrude

By March 15, 2018, states must submit two-year updates on their Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) State Plans to federal agencies. These strategic and operational plans will go through a public comment period, during which community advocates should hold states accountable to WIOA’s goals of innovation and equity.

CLASP’s WIOA Opportunities for Action details opportunities to strengthen educational and economic outcomes for individuals and communities.  Many states wrote aspirational unified or comprehensive plans with their core and required partners. However, they’ve been slow to operationalize them as well as institute policies and practices that would advance equity.

During this brief window of WIOA plan updating, CLASP urges state agencies and community advocates to emphasize these important goals:

Establish priority of service targets for high-need adults within WIOA title I adult and clearly describe the state monitoring process for those goals.

WIOA strengthens the service priority requirements for low-income persons that existed under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). WIOA Section 134(c)(3)(E) requires that priority for Adult career services and training services be given to recipients of public assistance, other low-income individuals, and those who are basic-skills deficient. The priority exists regardless of whether local funds are limited. In addition, this section requires the governor and  local board to direct one-stop operators on how this priority will be determined. State plans should set a minimum threshold of service to priority populations, as well as build capacity among local boards to serve target populations.

Identify WIOA career pathway programs for youth and adults.

In order to embed career pathways as a service delivery model for workforce development customers across programs, states must be able to identify career pathway services as well as current participants. States plans should create a process to determine whether local partners have built career pathway programs that meet WIOA’s career pathway program definition. They should also provide infrastructure and guidance on defining and measuring participants who are on a recognized career pathway.

Implement Integrated Education and Training (IET) models.

Integrated Education and Training (IET) is a research-proven educational practice based in adult learning theory. Through IET programs, adults seek goal-oriented, relevant, practical knowledge. Successful IET programs lead to educational and economic mobility, offsetting opportunity costs for people with family and work responsibilities. While required under Integrated EL Civics Funds, IET is allowable with all WIOA funds. In federal reporting, only Washington, Texas, and Illinois are making IET available for significant portions of their adult education participants.  State plans should detail how this powerful strategy will serve more people.

Establish co-enrollment policies to allow WIOA and state-funded programs to leverage one another’s expertise and services.

Enrolling eligible individuals in more than one core WIOA program can be a way to build support services into career pathway programs, build career services into education programs, and address the education and career needs of out-of-school youth through adult education.  A few states have issued joint policy on co-enrollment. However, many more must provide co-enrollment guidance through their planning and policy.

Build capacity for all WIOA programs to use all five measurable skill types to gauge interim progress for participants enrolled in WIOA services.

Measurable skill gain is an interim progress measure newly defined under WIOA.  Under this metric, the five types of skill gain will enable local partners to develop programs for individuals who won’t begin and complete training and secure employment within one program year.  State plans should detail how building capacity for this strategy in WIOA core programs will support service to target populations.

WIOA planning is an opportunity for your community to be heard.  We encourage you to get involved!