Maryland uses nearly $1 million in WIOA discretionary funds to support career pathways via co-enrollment

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, April 03, 2018

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) recently announced the award of nearly $1 million in discretionary Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds, also known as Governor’s Reserve funds. The awards will support local workforce boards and their partners in implementing innovative career pathways programs.

Workforce boards were able to apply for up to $250,000 in funding to develop innovative demonstration projects with a consortium of local partners, including adult education providers and business partners. Eligible applicants were provided with a menu of potential interventions that had been identified by the state as best practices.

The focus of this first round of awards is on career pathways that use an integrated approach that combines foundational skills and occupational or industry-specific training. The target population is adults who have foundational skills gaps in literacy, numeracy, or spoken English.

While co-enrollment in WIOA Title I workforce and Title II adult education services has long been a goal for the public workforce system, national numbers have remained stubbornly low. Maryland’s use of discretionary funds to foster connections between Title I and Title II providers represents a notable step towards better coordination. It comes on the heels of the state’s earlier efforts to facilitate joint assessment across WIOA partners.

Specific areas of focus for the newly funded projects are as follows:

  • Mid-Maryland (Howard and Carroll Counties) will use a multi-pronged approach to connect English Language Learners with careers in allied healthcare, starting with training to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. The partners will implement Integrated Education and Training, Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education, English Language Acquisition, and distance learning activities, create a Transition Specialist staff position, and provide a bridge class to help participants make the leap.
  • Prince George’s County will create career pathways in construction for English Language Learners through the development of pre-apprenticeship programs and a registered apprenticeship. Occupational focus areas are commercial painting, facilities maintenance, and trowel/block masonry.
  • Baltimore City will utilize Integrated Education and Training via the I-BEST model to connect adult learners enrolled in WIOA Title II programming with a healthcare career pathway. The project will train individuals to become Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in partnership with the Baltimore City Fire Department.

Notably, two of the three projects respond to the sizeable role played by English Language Learners in Maryland’s workforce, and the importance of ensuring that such workers have effective on-ramps to occupational training opportunities. National Skills Coalition previously highlighted this issue in our Immigrants and Middle-Skill Jobs in Maryland fact sheet.

While the use of Integrated Education and Training approaches is mandated by WIOA, states and localities have relatively wide latitude in determining the extent to which this model is adopted, the particular type(s) of IET to be implemented, and the number of individuals participating in such programs. The best-known version of IET remains the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) model developed in Washington State.

(National Skills Coalition has previously documented a range of efforts by state policymakers to support IET that goes beyond what is required under WIOA. Our 50-state scan details the status of such policies in each state, while our state policy toolkit highlights the key elements of a robust IET policy and provides model language that advocates can use in their own states.)