Debunking Myths on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s Youth Program

Posted February 23, 2022, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Woman standing in warehouse, smiling and holding a pad of paper in hand.

What is the Work­force Inno­va­tion and Oppor­tu­ni­ty Act?

The Work­force Inno­va­tion and Oppor­tu­ni­ty Act (WIOA) was signed into law in July 2014 with two pri­ma­ry goals in mind. These were:

  1. con­nect job seek­ers with the employ­ment, edu­ca­tion, train­ing and sup­port­ive ser­vices they need to suc­ceed in the labor mar­ket; and
  2. help employ­ers find skilled work­ers so that com­pa­nies can remain glob­al­ly competitive.

WIOA, which received bipar­ti­san sup­port when passed, was the first leg­isla­tive reform of the pub­lic work­force sys­tem since 1998.

Under the law, states must out­line a four-year strate­gic plan and set per­for­mance goals relat­ed to help­ing both indi­vid­u­als find high-qual­i­ty work and busi­ness­es find skilled work­ers. Two types of job seek­ers are pri­or­i­tized: young peo­ple and those with sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers to employment.

What is the WIOA Youth Program?

WIOA includes a com­pre­hen­sive pro­gram for young peo­ple ages 1424 who face bar­ri­ers to edu­ca­tion, train­ing and employ­ment. The pro­gram has 14 required ele­ments — such as offer­ing tutor­ing, paid and unpaid work expe­ri­ences and lead­er­ship-devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties — and gives pref­er­ence to sup­port­ing out-of-school youth. 

Local youth-serv­ing pro­grams deliv­er ser­vices in part­ner­ship with Amer­i­can Job Cen­ters and under the guid­ance of local Work­force Devel­op­ment Boards.

Com­mon Myths About the WIOA Youth Program

Mem­bers from the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor Dur­ing recent­ly pre­sent­ed to the Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial™ net­work on serv­ing youth and young adults via WIOA.

Accord­ing to Sara Hast­ings and Evan Rosen­berg of the department’s Divi­sion of Youth Ser­vices, con­fu­sion abounds as to how peo­ple can use WIOA youth dol­lars and where flex­i­bil­i­ty exists.

View a pre­sen­ta­tion on WIOA myths

This post iden­ti­fies and debunks five myths that Hast­ings and Rosen­berg hear most about the WIOA Youth Program.

Myth: WIOA is not for our” kids

Fact: The law applies to many groups of young peo­ple. This list includes:

  • youth who are out of school;
  • young peo­ple in school who live in low-income families; 
  • young peo­ple in fos­ter care; jus­tice-involved youth; 
  • young peo­ple who are preg­nant and parenting; 
  • youth who are home­less or have run away; 
  • youth with disabilities; 
  • Eng­lish lan­guage learners; 
  • young peo­ple with bar­ri­ers to employ­ment; and 
  • youth lack­ing basic skills.

Myth: It’s dif­fi­cult to enroll youth in WIOA due to the required eli­gi­bil­i­ty documentation

Fact: To help sim­pli­fy the enroll­ment process, the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor now allows young peo­ple to self-attest to almost all of the eli­gi­bil­i­ty requirements.

Myth: Serv­ing youth for just one year is too short to achieve outcomes

Fact: Local Work­force Boards are required to set pri­or­i­ties and devel­op clear, out­come-dri­ven con­tracts — but WIOA isn’t time lim­it­ed. The aver­age youth par­tic­i­pant receives 54 weeks of services.

Myth: WIOA per­for­mance mea­sures are just a bar­ri­er to serv­ing young people 

Fact: The U.S. Depart­ment of Labor nego­ti­ates with state agen­cies to deter­mine each state’s lev­el of per­for­mance. These required bench­marks can help assess the effec­tive­ness of each state’s work­force devel­op­ment efforts, and con­tracts can — and should — include inter­im progress bench­marks and short-term outputs.

Myth: The WIOA Youth Pro­gram isn’t com­pre­hen­sive enough

Fact: WIOA is not designed to be the one-and-only pro­gram sup­port­ing young peo­ple. Local orga­ni­za­tions have a crit­i­cal role to play in form­ing part­ner­ships to sup­port youth and young adults in their communities.

Learn More

The Nation­al Youth Employ­ment Coali­tion and U.S. Depart­ment of Labor are host­ing a series of month­ly vir­tu­al Q&A ses­sions on WIOA imple­men­ta­tion, fund­ing, per­for­mance met­rics and oth­er relat­ed topics.

Reg­is­ter Now

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