DOL, DoEd Grant Universal WIOA Performance Waivers

Over the next two years, the  Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (DoEd) will not penalize states that that fail to meet their performance standards under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), officials said.

The grace period is intended to help states and local board get programs on track to serve more individuals with barriers to employment, without the threat of sanctions. DOL and DoEd want states to build a realistic baseline into the adjustment model, enabling future performance targets to better encourage more robust services to greater numbers of individuals.

Specifically, the performance targets for WIOA Title I Youth Programs will take into account the particular needs and circumstances of the most vulnerable out-of-school youth.

When negotiating the youth goals, states should consider the importance of serving youth most in need, especially out-of-school youth (including those who are dropouts, in foster care, youth who are homeless or runaways, subject to the juvenile or adult justice system, pregnant or parenting, basic skill deficient or English language learners, the departments said. States that have ongoing initiatives for serving individuals with barriers to employment or serving the youth most in need may work with their Regional Administrator to negotiate appropriate goals for the next two years, the departments said.

Under WIOA, performance management provisions empower states and local areas to serve more individuals with barriers to employment. This includes an “objective statistical adjustment model” that adjusts state and local performance targets based on the level of WIOA services provided to individuals with the highest needs. It also includes a new interim progress measure, “Measurable Skills Gain,” that allows states and local areas to get credit for serving those who may take more than one year to meet other milestones, such as employment or credential attainment.

Youth Formulas

WIOA stresses physical and programmatic accessibility, including the use of accessible technology to increase individuals with disabilities’ access to high quality workforce services. It also emphasizes services to disconnected youth to prepare them for successful employment by requiring that a minimum of 75% of youth formula program funds be used to help these youth, in contrast to the 30% required under WIA.

The departments have also adopted an expanded, more helpful definition of “continuous improvement.” Under new guidance, continuous improvement goes beyond absolute increases in results from year to year; it also encompasses changes in service strategy and delivery or changes in the types of customers served. This supportive interpretation of continuous improvement should be used in federal-state and state-local negotiations over the next several years to set performance targets that accommodate greater services to more individuals with barriers to employment.

Advocates, including the Center for Law and Social Policy, applauded the new guidance.

WIOA’s new system for performance target setting reinforces the law’s focus on improved services to low-income participants with barriers to employment, CLASP said. Several performance measurement provisions remove disincentives that existed under prior federal law. Taken together, these provisions of WIOA should help overcome the concerns of state and local officials, who can focus on serving disadvantaged populations without the risk of lost funding or federal or state sanctions if they fail to meet performance targets, CLASP said.

States and local areas can use WIOA provisions to target workforce development funds to proven strategies such as intensive job training and career pathways programming. These provisions include:

  • The strengthened priority of service for WIOA title I funds, which requires that priority be given to recipients of public assistance and individuals with basic skills deficiencies.
  • WIOA’s removal of the prior law’s “sequence of services” rule, which discouraged job training and overemphasized low-touch, low-intensity services.
  • The law’s focus on services that lead to a recognized postsecondary credential, including measuring programs’ performance based on WIOA participants’ credential attainment.
  • WIOA’s strong emphasis on career pathways. The law requires WIOA agencies to bring partners together to design career pathways; encourages cross-program partnerships to develop Integrated Education and Training (IET) programs (which, when combined with support services, can be the foundation for robust career pathways initiatives); and measures career pathways both through interim milestones.

States and local workforce areas that target their funding to serve more people from vulnerable populations can get “credit” in the form of end-of-year adjustments to their performance targets based on the characteristics of the participants who actually received services. This adjustment will take into account participant characteristics such as indicators of poor work history, lack of work experience, lack of educational or occupational skills attainment, dislocation from high-wage and high-benefit employment, low levels of literacy or English proficiency.

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About Frank Klimko

Frank Klimko is a nationally known journalist, grants expert and speech writer/speaker. He has years of experience helping nonprofits devise lists of the right funding opportunities and secure funding from these foundations and corporate entities. Clients have focused on an array of areas including child care, homeless, hunger and K-12 education. Additionally, he is a Freedom of Information Act expert, who has helped numerous clients with securing proprietary information from the federal government. Currently, Frank Klimko writes the Children & Youth Funding Report and Private Grants Alert, which are Washington DC-based publications. CYF is a daily publication covering Congress, the Education Dept. and the various federal regulatory agencies. PGA, another daily publication, covers the world of private philanthropy.
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