National Skills Coalition released its redesigned side-by-side analysis of the Workforce Investment Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Download and print the Title I: Occupational Training and Title II: Adult Education & Literacy comparative provisions here.
In July 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), legislation reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was signed into law. The legislation, authored by Senators Murray (D-WA), Harkin (D-IA), Alexander (R-TN), and Isakson (R-GA), along with Representatives Kline (R-MN), Foxx (R-NC), Miller (D-CA), and Hinojosa (D-TX) was passed by both the House and the Senate on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis.
WIOA is the product of lengthy “pre-conference” negotiations between the House Committee on Education & the Workforce and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. The new law maintains the basic structure of WIA (i.e., an occupational training title; an adult basic education [ABE], literacy and English language acquisition [ESL] title; Wagner-Peyser; and Vocational Rehabilitation), and does not create a single block grant or otherwise consolidate current funding streams.
The bill amends current law in a number of ways. Key changes include:
- Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs). WIOA generally maintains the current structure of state and local workforce boards, continuing to require a business majority and chair. However, the number of required members is reduced.
- State and local plans. WIOA requires a single, unified State plan covering all core programs authorized under the bill. The plan must describe the State’s overall strategy for workforce development and how the strategy will meet identified skill needs for workers, job seekers and employers. Local plans must be aligned to the strategy described in the State plan, and must describe how services provided at the local level will be aligned to regional labor market needs.
- Performance measures. WIOA creates a single set of common measures for adults across all core programs authorized under the bill, including both occupational training and adult education programs, and a similar set of common measures across all youth serving programs authorized under the bill. Adult measures include: unsubsidized employment; median earnings; receipt of a secondary diploma or recognized postsecondary credential; measurable skills gains toward a credential or employment; and employer engagement.
- American Job Centers (one-stop centers). WIOA requires State boards to establish criteria for use by local boards to assess the “effectiveness, physical and programmatic accessibility, and continuous improvement” of American Job Centers at least every three years. The bill maintains current requirements for mandatory one-stop partners to reach a voluntary agreement to fund infrastructure costs; however, if local areas fail to come to an agreement, a State mandated funding mechanism may be imposed upon those local areas.
- Employment and training activities. WIOA codifies the elimination of the original “sequence of services,” and combines core and intensive services into a new “career services” category. The bill signals to states and local areas an interest in seeing a number of existing best practices adopted or expanded, including: career pathways (including integrated or contextualized ABE, ESL, and occupational training); industry or sector partnership (local WIBs are required to “convene, use, or implement” sector partnerships); and an increased focus on the attainment of industry-recognized certificates and credentials linked to in-demand occupations.
- State-wide set aside (i.e. governor’s set aside). WIOA restores the state-wide set-aside to 15 percent.
- Funding levels. Unlike current law, which simply specifies “such sums as necessary”, WIOA includes specific funding levels for each fiscal year (FY) 2015 through 2020 for the WIA Youth, Adult, and Dislocated Worker programs. Funding levels in FY 2015 are consistent with levels established under the Bipartisan Budget Act, which means that the programs would be funded at post-sequester levels. Funding levels are increased each year, and generally reach FY 2010 levels by FY 2017. However, it is important to understand that these are just authorization levels and actual funding levels will continue to be determined through the annual appropriations process. Unless Congress takes steps to undo the existing budget caps and mandatory cuts under sequestration, it is extremely unlikely that programs will be fully funded at these authorized levels.
- Data and accountability issues. WIOA includes a revised performance system, making all programs accountable for the same core metrics. The bill also adds requirements for performance reporting, expands use of UI wage records across all programs; requires coordination of state and federal evaluation efforts; and establishes a new Workforce Information Advisory Council.