How young immigrant dreamers can access job training

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, September 02, 2015

More than 700,000 young immigrant Dreamers in the United States have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). But did you know that DACA recipients are eligible to participate in federally funded job training programs?

Policy guidance issued in 2014 by the US Department of Labor affirms that individuals who are work-authorized are eligible to participate in job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act (now known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act).

Below, we explain how the process works, and spotlight a nonprofit that has succeeded in helping DACA youth obtain occupational training.

Take a look – and please share this update with others who may find it useful.

Are there any examples of DACA youth participating in federally funded job training programs?

Yes! One example is via the nonprofit Friendly House in Arizona. Friendly House has helped more than 100 youth with DACA status to obtain Individual Training Account vouchers that they can use at approved community colleges or other eligible training providers.

To date, 92 young people have completed training. A handful are engaged in externships, while 79 participants have already found employment, at an average wage of $12 per hour.

Occupations for which participants trained include medical assistant, dental assistant, CNC machine operator, solar panel installer, medical interpreter, health information specialist, computer specialist, and pharmacy technician.  

To learn more, contact Friendly House Director of Workforce Development Sandra Enriquez.

How can a Dreamer find out if she or he is eligible for job training assistance?

First, the applicant must have valid work authorization. Work authorization through DACA does qualify. It is important to make sure that the work permit has not expired.

Typically, an applicant must visit their local American Job Center (commonly known as a one-stop center) and meet with a caseworker to determine if they are eligible to receive training assistance. The primary type of assistance is known as Individual Training Account (ITA) vouchers, which applicants can take to any eligible training provider for training in a specific occupation or industry.

Regardless of the type of job training assistance, there are a number of eligibility criteria that applicants must meet. These include:

  • A determination by the caseworker that the individual needs training in order to obtain or retain employment
  • A determination that that he or she has the skills needed to successfully participate in the training

In addition, applicants must be 18 years or older.*

A limited number of ITA vouchers are available, and there is no guarantee that any given applicant will receive one.

If the applicant is approved for an ITA voucher, he or she can select from a list of eligible training providers. Each training provider will have its own rules for program admission (such as an entrance test).

*Other WIOA-funded services are available for youth. These will be described in a future bulletin.

Does the Individual Training Account voucher cover the full cost of training?

Typically, the ITA voucher covers the full cost of tuition. The dollar amount of the voucher is set at the local level, so it will vary depending on the city or county where the applicant is receiving services.

In some cases, ITA vouchers may also cover the cost of textbooks needed for the training. The ITA voucher does not include other expenses such as transportation or childcare.

How do you know which organizations are “eligible training providers”?

Each state has a list, known as the Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL). Find your state’s ETPL.

Are there other types of job-training assistance?

Yes. In addition to Individual Training Account vouchers, staff at American Job Centers may screen applicants for admission to contracted training programs. Similar to the process for the ITA, applicants must meet standard eligibility criteria.

These programs typically enroll an entire group (cohort) of training participants at the same time. They usually focus on a specific occupation or industry. Training is provided by a nonprofit or for-profit training provider that has received a contract from the local Workforce Development Board.

Who can help applicants decide on the right occupation?

Staff at the American Job Center may be able to help applicants select the right occupational training for them. The federal CareerOneStop website also has excellent resources to help people learn about training opportunities, and answer common questions about training.

Can an immigrant-serving organization become an Eligible Training Provider that qualifies to receive ITA funds?

Absolutely! Each state has its own process for how organizations can be approved as Eligible Training Providers. Contact your Local Workforce Development Board for details.

Can an immigrant-serving organization receive a contract to provide training for a group of participants?

Yes. Typically, these contracts are awarded on a competitive basis by the Local Workforce Development Board. Contact your local board to find out about upcoming Requests for Proposal or other contract opportunities.

Photo credit: Antonio R. Villaraigosa via Flickr (top), UNH Manchester via Flickr (bottom)