The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Summary drafted by The Council of State Governments

Congress’ swift passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) demonstrates the importance of modernizing workforce and jobs training programs to help equip workers with the skills needed for 21st century jobs. Shrinking the skills gap and placing workers in good-paying jobs is the cornerstone of CSG’s 2014 “State Pathways to Prosperity” initiative, and this legislation is an important step. This memorandum will provide an overview of WIOA and the key changes for states.

Background on WIA

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (P. L. 105-220) is the primary federal program that provides investment and support in employment services, workforce development activities, job training, adult education, and vocational training. The comprehensive program authorizes over 45 federal programs throughout nine federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Veterans Affairs. Some of the programs include Job Corps, Trade Adjustment Assistance, WIA Adult Program, Youth Build, Community Development Block Grants, Career and Technical Education Grants, and Local Veterans’ Employment Representative Program. WIA is divided into four main sections.

  • Title I – Workforce Investment Systems. This section authorizes programs that provide training and certification services to unemployed and underemployed individuals. Title I programs are administered primarily through the Employment and Training Administration within the U.S. Department of Labor, and include state formula grant programs, Job Corps, and multiple national programs. Title I also authorizes the one-stop delivery system with which state and local WIA training and employment activities must be coordinated.
  • Title II – Adult Education and Literacy. This section authorizes education services to assist adults in improving their skills, literacy, secondary education, and developing English language proficiency.
  • Title III – Workforce Investment Related Activities. Makes amendments to the Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933, which authorizes the public employment of services and the employment statistics system. It generally works to provide job search and job matching assistance to unemployed individuals into the one-stop system.
  • Title IV – Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. This title amends the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which provides employment-related services to individuals with disabilities.

WIA, originally authorized in 1998, is more than a decade overdue for Congressional reauthorization. Since then, many of the workforce programs have failed to maintain pace with the changing economic conditions and skills training needed to be placed in high-tech and emerging industries. Moreover, administrative obstacles and funding shortfalls have hampered the effectiveness of these programs. The purpose of WIOA is to amend and reauthorize WIA into a more efficient program that can help train workers for long-term careers.

Key Changes in WIOA

In general, WIOA maintains the framework of WIA, and includes provisions aimed at streamlining programs, easing reporting requirements, and reducing administrative barriers. WIOA also maintains the strong role of state and local governance, and provides increased flexibility for local boards to develop programs to meet their individual demand. In an effort to reduce duplication and increase efficiencies, the bill requires states to provide one comprehensive plan to align all the core workforce programs, including education, job training, and employment services. In addition, it reduces the number of required local workforce board members from 51 to 19, and maintains the business-led majority to help increase the effectiveness of local boards. (View U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheets >>)

It eliminates 15 duplicative programs, including Youth Opportunity Grants, Green Jobs Act, 21st Century Workforce Commission, WIA Incentive Grants, and Community-based Jobs Training Grants. The program is reauthorized through 2020, and authorizes 17 percent increase in funding. The actual level of funding for programs, however, will be determined through the annual appropriation process.  (View key implementation dates >>)

Here is an outline of the some of the key changes in WIOA:

Title I – Workforce Development Programs

  • Workforce Investment Boards. WIOA generally maintains the current structure of state and local workforce boards, continuing to require a business majority and chair. It establishes requirements to ensure diverse participation from urban and rural communities. The number of required members is reduced from 51 to 19. Sec. 101
  • Unified State Workforce Plans. WIOA requires a single, unified state plan covering all core programs authorized under the bill. The plan must describe the state’s overall strategy for workforce development and how the strategy will meet identified skill needs for workers, job seekers and employers. Local plans must be aligned to the strategy described in the state plan, and must describe how services provided at the local level will be aligned to regional labor market needs. Sec. 102 to 103
  • Designation of Local Workforce Development Areas. Maintains the similar criteria for the designation of a local workforce area from WIA. It establishes new provisions related to automatic designation of certain areas to reduce inefficiencies. WIOA also increases the state’s ability to determine the exact area(s), while strengthening the coordination with local community. Sec. 106
  • Performance Measures. To promote transparency and accountability, WIOA creates a single set of common measures for adults across all core programs authorized under the bill. It includes both occupational training and adult education programs, and a similar set of common measures across all youth serving programs authorized underthe bill. The bill includes performance reports to be provided at the state, local, and training provider levels to evaluate the efficiency of core programs. Sec. 116
  • Establishment of One-Stop Delivery System. WIOA requires state boards to establish criteria for use by local boards to assess the effectiveness, physical and programmatic accessibility, and continuous improvement of one-stop centers at least every three years. The bill maintains current requirements for mandatory one-stop partners to reach a voluntary agreement to fund infrastructure costs; however, if local areas fail to come to an agreement, a state mandated funding mechanism may be imposed upon those local areas. Sec. 121
  • Employment and Training Activities. For youth, WIOA strengthens the existing youth services by focusing on out-of-school youth, dropout recovery efforts, and education for at-risk youth. For adults and dislocated workers, the bill helps stabilize the funding formula to reduce volatility for states. It also preserves the governor’s 15 percent set-aside for statewide activities.
  • Job Corps. WIOA strengthens the current program by strengthening the contracting requirements for centers. It requires the program to use performance accountability indicators, and includes requirements for a third party to review the program every five years. Sec. 141-162
  • National Programs. The bill reauthorizes the Native American program, the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker program, Youthbuild, and provisions for the National Dislocated Worker grants. It also requires the Secretary of Labor to conduct a multistate study on strategies for placing individuals in jobs and education programs that will lead to equivalent pay between men and woman. The report will be completed within 18 months after the enactment of the law. Sec. 166-172
  • Elimination of Duplicative Programs. As stated, WIOA eliminated 15 duplicative federal programs in an effort to increase coordination and efficiencies. The programs included: Youth Opportunities Grants, 21st Century Workforce Commission, National Institute for Literacy under Adult Education, Health Care Gap Coverage for Trade Adjustment Assistance, WIA Incentive Grants, WIA Pilots and Demonstration Projects, Community-based Job Training Grants, Green Jobs Act, Projects with Industry (under Rehabilitation amendments), Recreation projects (under Rehabilitation amendments), In-service training (under Rehabilitation amendments), Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Program, WIA Veterans Workforce Investment Program, WIA Workforce Innovation Fund, and Grants to States for Workplace and Community Transition Training for incarcerated Individuals.

Title II – Adult Education and Family Literacy

  • Education and Career Development. WIOA places an emphasis on ensuring that states and local providers offer basic skills, adult education, literacy activities, and English language training. It also emphasizes the utilization of a career pathway approach for adult learners to support job training and continued education for new employment opportunities. Sec. 201-243
  • Coordination in State Plan and Efficiency Incentives. Increases coordination of Title II education programs with overall statewide workforce plan. It provides states with incentives to better coordinate their education programs for the purpose of career advancement. WIOA also authorizes states to receive funds to develop valid and reliable performance data. It provides provisions to support research and evaluation of adult education activities at the national level. Sec. 221-225

Title III - Workforce Information Council

  • Statistics and Information Coordination. Generally maintains the WIA law and aligns provisions of WIOA, including the state unified plan, performance measures, and other reporting metrics. It also renames “employment statistics” to “workforce and labor market information system.” Sec. 301-308

Title IV - Rehabilitation Act of 1973

  • General purpose. The Rehabilitation Act is an important law for individuals living with disabilities. This legislation authorizes programs to assist those with disabilities, including vocational rehabilitation programs, independent living program, and research on new technology to assist those with disabilities.
  • Vocational State Set-Aside. WIOA requires state vocational rehabilitation agencies to make “pre-employment transition services” available to all students with disabilities, and to coordinate those services with transition services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. State vocational rehabilitation programs can set aside at least 15 percent of the federal funds to help young people with disabilities transition from secondary school to postsecondary education programs and employment. Sec. 411-424
  • Independent Living. Strengthens coordination of Independent Living Programs within U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Education, and other agencies to better align their programs to support their goal of integrating individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society. Sec. 431-492




WIOA Update.pdf1.15 MB