As states update the plans for workforce training program under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), they should work to implement programs that help underserved youth and adults get on a sustainable career path.
The Education and Labor Dept’s are publishing proposed regulations to implement provisions of WIOA, enacted July 22, 2014. DOL programs impacted include: Wagner-Peyser Act/employment services and Job Corps. For example, WIOA restructures Job Corps (CFDA Number: 17.259) to ensure career and technical education and training is geared toward in-demand occupations and disadvantaged youth (such as out-of-school youth) receive a regular high school diploma or a recognized postsecondary credential.
The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) strongly supported the submission of State Plans to foster greater coordination among the six core workforce and education programs funded under WIOA.
CLASP said it is important that the WIOA State Plan foster understanding and adoption of WIOA’s robust definition of career pathway programs at the local level. States should determine whether partners have built career pathway programs that meet this definition and offer infrastructure and guidance on defining and tracking participants who are on a “state-recognized” career pathway, CLASP said.
WIOA career pathway plans do not have to articulate pathways for every youth and adult population in the state (although these systems should be more closely coordinated over time). WIOA career pathways simply need to represent the intersection of these systems’ efforts to serve individuals with barriers to employment in specific occupational sectors that are in demand in regional labor markets. In other words, partners should focus on in-demand credentials for target populations—youth and adults—as they define their shared work. WIOA’s required set of career pathway core activities have both enough structure and enough flexibility to describe the intersection of partnership activities across key public systems, CLASP said.
In building the plans, states should:
- Build pathway identifiers into administrative data systems so that individual participants can be “flagged” as participating in a particular state-recognized program.
- Issue a co-enrollment policy that clearly endorses an individual being served by multiple WIOA titles and explains how to track the variety of services received through the different providers.
- Define enrollment strategies with postsecondary career and technical education providers to ensure robust use of Integrated Education and Training—the balanced, simultaneous provision of literacy, workforce preparation and training.
- Give guidance to human service providers on enrolling and supporting human service recipients in these state-recognized career pathways, especially youth.
- Ensure that state-recognized career pathway programs are on the state’s Eligible Training Provider List, making them eligible for title I-B training funds.
Increased coordination among WIOA’s core programs can help to align policies and funding streams to support comprehensive and integrated services that help low-skilled and low-income people—including disconnected youth. CLASP urged the departments in the final rule to add several additional required operational elements, including those that address the needs of disadvantaged youth.
The comment period is now closed. The departments plan to analyze these public comments and anticipate issuing final rules implementing WIOA in early 2016.