Debunking Myths on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s Youth Program
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:
- connect job seekers with the employment, education, training and supportive services they need to succeed in the labor market; and
- 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 14–24 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.
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.
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.