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Services for people who are currently incarcerated or who have criminal records are an important element of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. An upcoming webinar from National Skills Coalition will explore policy avenues for improving adult education and workforce services for people who are incarcerated or who are returning to their communities after incarceration.
The webinar will be moderated by NSC’s Director of Upskilling Policy, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock. It will be held on May 18, 2017 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Register now to ensure your place.
Background: How Widespread are WIOA-Funded Re-Entry Services?
A 2015 survey by the National Association of Counties (NACo) found that nearly half (47%) of local workforce boards reported that they were providing re-entry services for people returning to the community after incarceration. More specifically, 44% of workforce boards were providing re-entry services to adults, and 30% were providing such services to youth.
Many workforce boards fund re-entry services using WIOA Title I Adult, Dislocated Worker, or Youth dollars. NACo’s report Second Chances, Safer Counties includes several short case studies of how boards are using such funding as well as other federal and state sources. They include:
In addition to WIOA formula funds to the states, additional funding for services to formerly incarcerated people is available through the WIOA Sec. 169 Re-Entry Employment Opportunities (REO) program. REO is administered by the US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. The most recent round of REO grants was awarded in June 2016 and totaled $64.5 million.
Background: Understanding the Demand for WIOA Adult Education Services in Corrections
Under WIOA Sec. 225, states may use up to 20% of their WIOA Title II funds to provide adult education programs for individuals who are currently incarcerated. This is an increase from the earlier Workforce Investment Act, which had allowed states to use up to 10% of their funds for corrections education.
The increase reflects a growing understanding of the deep need for adult education programs serving people who are incarcerated. Data from the rigorous international assessment known as the PIAAC show that a substantial percentage of incarcerated individuals in the United States have basic skills gaps.
In particular, a full 30% of incarcerated adults lack a high school diploma. People who are incarcerated are also more likely to have low literacy levels, with 29% scoring below Level 2 on the PIAAC, compared to 19% of those in US households. Incarcerated individuals are even more likely to have low numeracy scores, with 52% scoring below Level 2 compared to 29% of adults in US households.
Many people in prison have a strong interest in continuing their education: A full 70% of incarcerated individuals who were not currently enrolled in an education program said that they wanted to pursue one.
More information is available in the publication Highlights from the US PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education and Training, published by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2016.
Learn more about these important issues in NSC’s May 18 webinar.