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What’s Happening to WIOA? [2024 Updates]

What’s Happening to WIOA? [2024 Updates]

[Updated Dec 2023]

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act expired in 2020, and workforce development agencies have been running on fumes ever since. Even the bigger picture is bleak: over the past 20 years, federal funding for workforce programs has declined by 45%. WIOA reauthorization is desperately needed to support our nation’s workforce as we recover from the pandemic and continue to move through global economic uncertainty.

In May 2022, the House passed WIOA of 2022 (H.R.7309), which would have reauthorized and fully funded WIOA programs with nearly $80 billion over the next six years. Unfortunately, it did not achieve the bipartisan support it needed to move forward in the Senate.

Over a year and a half later, House Education and the Workforce Committee leaders have delivered another attempt at reauthorization: H.R. 6655, A Stronger Workforce for America Act

“An effective workforce development system is critical to ensuring a strong economy and a skilled workforce. This bipartisan bill provides crucial updates to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that will help employees compete in today’s workforce, close the skills gap, provide accountability, and most importantly, facilitate the success of American workers,” said Chairwoman Foxx. 

Ranking Member Scott added, “For far too long, we have left our workforce development system without the resources and tools it needs to connect workers with good-paying job opportunities and help employers access a pipeline of talented workers. The bill makes an array of key improvements to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs, such as expanding and improving the quality of skills development, strengthening services for disconnected youth, and codifying grants to help individuals released from incarceration transition back to employment and sustainable careers.”

As of December 12, the bill had been approved by the House Education and Workforce Committee and was headed to the House floor for a vote.

Here are some key takeaways from the proposed bill:

Invests in Skills

  • Allocates 50 percent of funds for adult and displaced workers towards "individual training accounts" (ITAs), on-the-job learning, and other relevant employer and industry initiatives for upskilling.
  • Offers eligible displaced workers ITAs valued at $5,000 to participate in high-quality reskilling programs and rejoin the workforce, utilizing existing resources from the Department of Labor.
  • Permits states to earmark extra funds from their state allocation to create a "critical industry skills fund," which would reimburse employers, sector partnerships, and other intermediaries for upskilling workers in priority industries, contingent on program completion and sustained employment.
  • Increases the limit on "incumbent worker training," enabling local workforce boards, especially in areas with low unemployment or high labor force participation, to assist the currently employed workforce in acquiring new skills to prevent displacement and promote career advancement.
  • Improves the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (WIOA Title II) by incorporating digital literacy skills as a fundamental part of adult education and promoting "integrated education and training" to allow adult learners to acquire basic skills while preparing for a high-demand job or industry.

Increases Accountability

  • Refines the "eligible training provider list" to align with employer needs, focusing on employment outcomes and quality.
  • Updates performance indicators to better measure program success, including job retention and employer-connected learning rates.
  • Strengthens accountability system to ensure positive labor market outcomes and continuous system improvement.
  • Modernizes jobseeker services through regular state-level assessments, promoting cost-effective virtual services and community hubs.
  • Increases Job Corps standards for performance and safety, tying contract awards to success and providing more local control.

High-Quality Pathways

  • Replaces the term "out-of-school youth" with "opportunity youth," mandates 65% of youth funds for them, and allows local percentage allocation.
  • Places a greater emphasis on work-based learning for youth and enhances the quality of summer and year-round employment opportunities while authorizing ITAs for in-school youth to participate in extra-curricular skills development programs.
  • Enhances a program for helping released prisoners transition into employment and identifies strategies to improve outcomes and reduce recidivism.
  • Strengthens in-demand job-aligned programs at community colleges, focusing on industry partnerships and recognition of prior learning.

Prioritizes Modernization

  • Grants a demonstration authority enabling selected states and local workforce boards to receive consolidated five-year Title I funds, offering flexibility to reshape their workforce systems while maintaining basic protections and accountability.
  • Ensures transparency in credentials awarded by eligible providers, including detailed information on the awarding entity, industry recognition, skills signified, and employment and earning outcomes of recipients.
  • Encourages skills-based hiring by allowing state and local boards to offer technical assistance to employers for implementing such practices, including competency-based assessments during participant intake.
  • Improves Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants to enhance state workforce data capabilities through cross-state collaboration, timely and relevant labor market data, adoption of credential navigation tools, and evidence-based decision-making.
  • Increases the limit on pay-for-performance contracting and streamlines the process for local workforce boards to contract with outcome-focused programs, removing the restriction on states using their governor's reserve for incentives.

Modernizing WIOA Management

A longstanding challenge in WIOA reauthorization has been getting both sides to agree on the next best steps for improving workforce development in the U.S. Some think more funding is the key to a greater impact, while others want to see more demonstrated impacts before allocating more funding. The bipartisan flavor of the latest bill is underpinned by commitments to both perspectives. If the bill is passed, a modernized WIOA will necessitate a modernized approach to WIOA management. With additional compliance requirements and more stringent performance measures, WIOA-funded agencies will need the technological infrastructure to collect, track, and report on participant data. Clearly demonstrating their impact will allow agencies to stay compliant and fully funded.

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