Top 4 Things You Should Know About WIOA Implementation

Thursday, March 24, 2016 -- Leslie Holland

It’s been over eighteen months since President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) to help align and measure progress in workforce development programs across states and local regions. WIOA replaced the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and reauthorized several core funding programs for adult education and skills training, and it came with a significant implementation process. Each state was required to develop and submit a state plan by March 3rd, outlining how WIOA initiatives will be fulfilled through 2020, and as of July 1, 2016 WIOA performance accountability measures will take effect. So, what can adult educators expect to see in the coming months as WIOA implementation begins in earnest? Here are the top four changes to prepare for!

1) Focus on Organizational Partnerships

One of the primary focuses of WIOA is to address the need to align and improve workforce development, education, and economic development programs. To accomplish this, a key component of WIOA is the expansion of industry partnerships at both the state and local levels, particularly in the form of sector partnerships. Sector partnerships bring together multiple employers within specific key industries as well as organizations that provide education, training, and support for the industry. By building partnerships based on sectors like this, job seekers will have increased access to services and employment opportunities, while maximizing resource use and more efficiently meeting employers’ needs. State plans must address how the state will utilize available funding to build these partnerships.

2) Program Improvement Through Common Performance Metrics

Effective reporting for workforce program accountability and evaluation is a key goal of WIOA. In order to achieve this, WIOA establishes expanded common performance metrics that all programs will be evaluated against on a regular basis. These metrics will help administrators continuously monitor the program outcomes to make ongoing improvements, and they represent significant changes from performance measures currently in place under WIA.

For adult jobseekers, WIOA establishes increased lag time in reporting on entry into and retention in unsubsidized employment, measures earnings change using median earnings rather than average, and adds metrics looking at the rate of post-secondary credential attainment as well as in program skills gains. For youth programs, WIOA increases lag time in reporting on placement in employment or further training and attainment of a recognized high school or post-secondary credential. It also introduces metrics on retention in employment or training, median earnings after entry in to unsubsidized employment, and in program skills gains. Finally, WIOA will introduce one or more metrics measuring the effectiveness for employers of the various workforce programs serving them before the start year two of implementation. Ultimately, these new metrics should support alignment and cohesion between education programs and the workforce system.

3) Higher Standards for Local Performance Accountability

Common performance reporting metrics will enable workforce development systems to be held to a higher standard of accountability by Local and State Boards. Local and State regions may be penalized with sanctions if they fail to meet minimum requirements for different performance measures. A first sanction for either a State or Local region will include a performance improvement plan as well as assistance. If a State region is still not meeting requirements after two years, sanctions may include a 5% Governor funding reduction. If Local regions have not met requirements in 3 consecutive years, sanctions may allow the Governor to appoint a new Local Board, bar the use of the failing partners or providers, or take other actions as they see fit.  

4) Development of Career Pathways

As part of WIOA’s focus on alignment between education and industry, the act highlights career pathways as a critical strategy for workforce development. Career Pathways encourage cross-program collaboration by bringing together education, job training, counseling, and support services along with employers to develop pathways that accelerate job seekers’ attainment of post-secondary credentials and employment in specific occupations. WIOA requires that state plans establish a strategy for aligning core programs to support career pathways, and earmarks both Title I and Title II funding for these purposes. Ultimately, Career Pathways are intended to support both employers and job-seekers by identifying in-demand occupations and then providing increased access to resources needed to enter them.    

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a complex piece of legislation that holds great promise to modernize and improve our workforce development system. To learn more about WIOA and its implementation process, check out this overview from National Association of Workforce Boards or the National Skills Coalition's State Plan Playbook.

Interested in learning more about how Edmentum’s online solutions for Adult + HigherEd learners can support your workforce development program? Check out our Effective Workforce Readiness Solutions!