The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014, with the aims of: helping job seekers access education, training and support services necessary for success in the 21st century labor market, and matching employers with skilled workers needed for global economic competition. WIOA supersedes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, and amends existing laws, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (which authorizes the vocational rehabilitation program).
The Act will take effect on July 1, 2015. The Department of Labor (DOL) will be issuing guidance on implementation timelines, new regulations, and resources for states, local programs, grantees and stakeholders. For more information, see the DOL’s Information Page, or the Department of Education’s WIOA Resource Page. WIOA was enacted to address certain problems facing the U.S. workforce, including significant projected shortages in the necessary numbers of workers with postsecondary education, and lack of workforce participation by individuals with disabilities.
The Act seeks to streamline the workforce development system, through measures such as: (a) common outcome metrics for federal workforce programs (e.g., six indicators of performance for adults and six for youth served under the Rehabilitation Act); (b) smaller, more strategic state/local workforce development boards; (c) integration of intake, case management, evaluation and reporting systems; and (d) elimination of the sequence of services to allow local boards to meet unique individual’s needs. WIOA empowers local boards to tailor services to regional workforce needs, and supports access to real-world education and workforce development opportunities for job seekers in the system (e.g., work-based learning, incumbent worker, customized training, pay-for-performance contracts).
WIOA will increase services to youth with disabilities by emphasizing the need for youth with disabilities to have more opportunities to practice workplace skills, exercise self-determination in career interests and get work-based experience. To satisfy this need, state VR agencies will be required to offer pre-employment transition services to all students with disabilities (setting aside at least 15% of federal VR program funds). WIOA allows agencies to prioritize serving students with disabilities, support advanced training in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as well as other technical professions, and emphasize competitive integrated employment in supported and customized employment programs.
To match employers with skilled individuals (job-driven programs), WIOA emphasizes employer engagement, with more opportunities, under the VR program, to help employers provide work-based learning for people with disabilities (e.g., apprenticeships and internships). WIOA also establishes some new requirements for ensuring collaboration amongst relevant stakeholders at federal and state levels. For up-to-date information on new regulations, timelines for implementation and resources, check the DOL and ED WIOA information pages.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, http://www.doleta.gov/wioa/.