AskEARN | Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) Skip to main content

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About EARN

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) offers information and resources to help employers recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities; build inclusive workplace cultures; and meet diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) goals. 

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Start here to learn how to recruit, hire, retain and advance people with disabilities; why workplace inclusion of people with disabilities matters; and how EARN’s resources can help.

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    Phases of Employment

  • A woman in a wheelchair shakes hands with a colleague

    Recruit

    Build a pipeline of talent that includes people with disabilities.

  • Two men work at repairing an engine.

    Hire

    Identify people who have the skills and attributes for the job.

  • A woman with a disability wearing a helmet works in a factory

    Retain

    Keep talented employees with disabilities, including those who acquire them on the job.

  • A man uses sign language to communicate.

    Advance

    Ensure that employees with disabilities have equal opportunities for advancement.

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA)

Learn about WIOA, which encourages state and local agencies and employers to work together to identify strategies for meeting workforce needs, including by increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) was enacted to address challenges facing the U.S. workforce, including significant projected shortages in the necessary numbers of workers with postsecondary education, and the lack of workforce participation by people with disabilities. It was the first major reform of the nation’s workforce system since the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (PDF).

WIOA amended existing laws to encourage engagement from employers to address some of these workforce challenges. For example, WIOA funds efforts by state-based vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs to assist employers in providing more opportunities for work-based learning, such as apprenticeship and internships, for people with disabilities. WIOA also includes a wide range of activities geared toward understanding and meeting employers’ workforce needs. 

In addition, WIOA authorizes additional services to youth with disabilities. These include opportunities for youth and young adults to practice workplace skills, exercise self-determination in career choices and gain work experience. To support these efforts, state VR agencies must offer pre-employment transition services to all students with disabilities to ensure they are prepared to enter the workforce, and set aside at least 15% of funds they receive from the federal government to do so.

Historically, workforce agencies, such as state VR agencies and labor departments, did not collaborate closely to serve specific populations, such as people with disabilities. WIOA requires these agencies to coordinate activities to better serve employers and workers. For up-to-date information on regulations and related resources, see the U.S. Department of Labor’s WIOA webpage, or the National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD Center) webpage.

Partnering with Workforce Agencies Authorized by WIOA

Businesses can benefit from engaging with workforce agencies and other partners (PDF). This engagement can improve talent pipelines by investing in pre-employment, recruitment and training activities that are bolstered by WIOA funding. Below are some examples of actions organizations can take to partner with workforce agencies to improve talent pipelines and ensure that they include candidates with disabilities: