Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization

WIA Community Conversation in Houston, TX (January 11, 2010)

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was created in 1998, a time of robust economic prosperity. WIA was created to encourage public-private partnerships in order to modernize workforce development services; serve at-risk youth, under-educated and unemployed/underemployed adults, youth and adults with disabilities and English language learners (ELL); and establish statutory definitions, state and local workforce provisions, Job Corps, national programs and administrative guidelines.

The current economic conditions stand in stark contrast to those when WIA was created 11 years ago. The Department of Education believes the time is right to move forward with WIA reauthorization, in order to help provide opportunities and pathways for those who need new skills in order to compete in an increasingly competitive and difficult economy.

In preparation for WIA reauthorization, our Office of Vocational and Adult Education is hosting a series of WIA Community Conversations across the country. The goal of these conversations is to facilitate a candid and constructive discourse among a comprehensive range of stakeholders whose work is directly affected by WIA. These conversations will help inform our thinking as we prepare for reauthorization.

Comments are now available from Community Conversations held thus far in Sacramento, CA, New York, NY (am and pm), Trenton, NJ (am and pm), Godfrey, IL (am, lunch, and pm), Nashville, TN (am and pm), Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL.

Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education covered a Capitol Hill meeting with career and technical educators on the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act.  See the article.

In the meantime, we invite you to share your comments about WIA here on the blog or submit your feedback to us at WIAConversations@ed.gov.

38 Comments

  1. Employment must most assuredly be predicated upon instilling in young people the means through which to express them in written form, I liked your blog it’s very interesting, your information had helped me very much, Please keep on posting the related information regarding this Article.

  2. I think it is essential that America paint a picture of hope for every child regardless of circumstances, that if they stay in school and prepare for college, they will be guaranteed the opportunity of attending a public college or university. This vision will encourage children to value education as a path to sustainability. It will require that they apply themselves to the task of creating possibility for themselves. They will have a tangible reason to take an interest in school and resist the destructive behaviors that are created by discouragement and boredom. It will make more sense to delay starting families until they have become sustainable. We can certainly afford to fund this endeavor. It is an investment which will be returned by the reduced expenses currently spent on welfare and criminal justice.

  3. I agree with earlier comments about the need for improved coordination between the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor. States or regions with substantial numbers of adults who need to learn basic skills should have performance standards that address the problem and require programs to recruit participants and assure their success. Until then, creaming continues and we all lose.

  4. In times of economic turbulence and uncertainty, learning has to be flexible and provide alternatives specially for younger people. The WIA high school or GED requirement, leaves a huge gap.

  5. Workforc is very important regardless of the condition of the current economony as it helps sustain it.

  6. Workforce investment is important regardless of the economic climate – perhaps even more important in suffering economic times like today.

  7. I strongly feel that Public Library/Workforce Development Partnerships are extremely important. These valuable programs are so vital to have as our economy continues its slow recovery. People need a place to go for help so thanks to those you dedicate themselves and offer such programs.

  8. I agree with earlier comments about the need for improved coordination between the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor. During 2009, I found the selection of Workforce Investment Act classes in the District of Columbia had almost no connections to my main achievements: a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University in 1982, a Master’s Degree in History from DePaul University in 1996 with an internship on the papers of U.S. Senator Paul Douglas at the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum, a completed Screenwriting class, a completed Public Relations Writing class, recent work on polling, and recent work as a fundraiser for political and nonprofit groups. I have a tough time with choices: Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate was marginally related to work and listed a GED qualification and when I called, they said they wanted a letter with several years of management experience: I did not have it or required Human Resources practitioner experience. On Feb. 19, 2008, the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services caseworker told me I could not use Workforce Investment Act programs because I had two Master’s Degrees: I later found this was wrong and contradicted Workforce Investment Act policies and text where I was eligible because I had exhausted unemployment insurance, other reasons in Section 129 and 134 of the Workforce Investment Act, and little or no likelihood of returning to previous industry with obsolete college references. I was on unemployment insurance since January 2009 and D.C. only wants to start training now when I am on Tier 3 unemployment insurance. The University of District of Columbia – Van Ness was uncooperative when I e-mailed to ask for schedules on their listed Workforce Investment Act classes last autumn. In September 2009, I asked to attend a Hospitality Training class with sponsorship from the University of District of Columbia – Van Ness and was refused with a runaround: UDC staff said it required approval from the D.C. Dept. of Employment Services (DOES)and DOES staff said it was free and open to the community with no required approval from DOES for the Sept.-Dec. 2009 class. Tensions continue on whether I should take training which is unrelated to my previous education. However, I should emphasize my strong belief in reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. Please post this one comment since we need reforms in the nation’s Capitol area and I need U.S. Dept. of Education input on what kinds of training seem appropriate for my education. Thanks.

  9. The current WIA system works against adults who have not completed high school and have low basic skills. In our region these individuals are told to get their GED on their own and then they can come back for WIA services. These learners are the most in need of the counseling and direction that WIA offers but they are not allowed “inside the WIA circle” until they obtain the GED credential. Having served on our local WIB, I know it is not the intent of WIA to shut out basic skills level learners from the WIA services but there are no performance standards that require case managers to recruit and retain adults without a high school diploma on their case loads. This must be fixed. States or regions with substantial numbers of adults who need to learn basic skills should have performance standards that address the problem and require programs to recruit participants and assure their success. Until then, creaming continues and we all lose.

  10. QUESTION!

    Can the WIA Programs assist it’s clients in becoming an owner operator. I currently hold a CDL Class A and would like to own my truck and trailer. Is there any program in the phoenix,az area that can help you with these goals?

  11. Hi, I have not read all of the proposals, but I want to offer a suggestion to school reform that should be a part of every single proposal. I am a retired teacher, principal, quality director, school director and executive director of schools in a large school district in Colorado. I believe that there are many ideas worth considering for school reform and many are already working. I don’t believe however that we can manage to move forward in educational reform without demanding and mandating that all districts that receive money for Race to the top MUST have in place or put into place a MODEL OF cONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT. There are many out there and in district that are using them, we see improved results in learning, teaching, managing information, using data, recruiting, retention, fiscal management. All departments in the school district use the same model, acquire a language and thus move forward in a positive way. I believe this must be a requirement for receiving funds from our government. I am willing to help as I have had training in this area. Thank you.
    Sincerely, Annette Sulzman

  12. The current WIA system works against adults who have not completed high school and have low basic skills. In our region these individuals are told to get their GED on their own and then they can come back for WIA services. These learners are the most in need of the counseling and direction that WIA offers but they are not allowed “inside the WIA circle” until they obtain the GED credential. Having served on our local WIB, I know it is not the intent of WIA to shut out basic skills level learners from the WIA services but there are no performance standards that require case managers to recruit and retain adults without a high school diploma on their case loads. This must be fixed. States or regions with substantial numbers of adults who need to learn basic skills should have performance standards that address the problem and require programs to recruit participants and assure their success. Until then, creaming continues and we all lose.

  13. I see a major disconnect between the One Stop and education system. The One Stop performance is based on completers while the education system has no performance based measures. They are simply interested in putting people in seats at the beginning of each semester and they really don’t care if they complete or not. The funds spent by the One Stop become disallowed costs which just means they are wasted. I think all partners in the process should be held accountable to help the students complete their education and meet their employment goals.

  14. Workforce Investment Act reauthorization would most likely make a difference in assisting those people who are having a very a hard time seeking for a job in this current economic status. But not all people will have the benefits in the assistance of the WIA if the rumored allegations of discrimination experienced by some individuals were true. Issues concerning the age and family status of some applicants of WIA were the few factors of discrimination. Treatments to every aspiring applicants should be just as fair. Nevertheless, we know for the fact that the program aims to help those jobless individuals to acquire a job and that alone is a good thing. Apparently, it would be a lot better if everyone is treated fair because in that way everyone will see even a little hope to survive the current economic status.

  15. When adults spend so much of their life reading and writing badly, or avoiding it altogether, there is emotional damage to be overcome and just mechanics and practice of skills is not enough. I believe that we could use more training and resources to help our learners overcome these barriers more quickly. Besides time and patience, I am at a loss how else to help in this area. Sadly, many do not make the leap of faith to try these skills again, so the cycle of failure continues. I would like more ideas to help them over these hurdles.

  16. Expansion of sites and resources for the External Diploma Program would greatly improve access to a diploma for those with learning disabilities, particularly the older student and the undiagnosed student.

    Also, any sort of LD screening devises that could be easily used in the field, along with training on instruments and resources to implement them would speed the student’s progress while lowering frustrations all around.

    Finally, simply expanding the funding in general is crucial. When typically only 5% of those in need gain access to services, this is a failure by any standard.

  17. I have worked as the program coordinator/adminstrator for the WIA Youth Employment Program within a California School District for 17 years. I am a special education teacher as well. Prior to WIA, we effectively utilized the JTPA/SYEP monies. Our program services over 200 in-need youth each year. Students receive a minimum of 300 hours of paid work experience and our exposed to increased academic enrichment through program monies, as well. These programs have stimulated local businesses, developed the skills and minds of our youth, and in many cases, allowed for families to survive economically. Tomorrow, we could double the size of our program, as there is that much need and interest. I applaud the Obama adminstration for bringing back the Summer Youth Employment Program this past summer. I am a voting Republican, and believe that stimulus monies that directly reach the hands of those in need are programs I can support. Especially programs that require the recipient to earn those monies through employment. Financial struggles cross educational, economic, and political lines.

  18. It looks like from reading all the comments that the money spent by the government could be used in a lot of different programs, but missing from the solutions are the critical relationships the educational agencies should have with their local business and industry partners. The education community has not done enough in the past to encourage this kind of mixture. . If the Act would fund resources made available to companies that hire limited English speaking employees, We could build a comprehensive program that rewarded the company by teaching those new employees in English just those words and phrases that are necessary for job success. The Teachers would spend time in the company learning some of the processes and making notes for the curriculum to be used before the program begins. The outcomes of the program could be measures in productivity and safety metrics. The language gains could me measured as the program progressed. This type of program helps the new employee hold his job, and become comfortable with English teams. . It also encourages the students/workers to continue to improve. Unfortunately The educational community is only interested in measuring language gains against standard norms. This type of program is not familiar ground to the evaluators, so it has never flourished. This Work Place Productivity program serves both new learner and company at the same time. A win-win situation at best. It may be something to consider when the Act is written.

  19. It takes much too long for one to get through the One-Stop process. A person should not have to wait 3-4 months to go through the multiple steps it takes to enroll in a career training program. If one is not persistent you could get lost in the system.

  20. Two topics: Basic Skills funding and Community College as partners

    A new epidemic and challenge for communities, is adult learners (over 40) being layed off at a rapid pace who lack basic skills to re-enter into the workforce or take a career training course to jumpstart a new career. Classes are filled with learners trying to get to a 10th grade reading and math level. Yet basic skills funding continues to be cut. In our community, there are over 40 adult learners sitting in a class trying to learn math so they can qualify for career training. Funding is critical to continue this work.

    Community colleges are critical partners with the WIBS to provide basic skills and career training courses. Community Colleges should be part of the decision making process about the future of WIA. Community colleges are educators and not job placement experts. They should not be withheld funding for placement as continues to be the norm.

  21. I would like to take this time to discuss that the WIA Program was cut from Wauseon, Oh in Henry County and I was the instructor. These students, who are usually disadvantaged, have now lost a VERY IMPORTANT educational opportunity! This program offered them assessment testing, one-on-one teaching and tutoring, and someone who CARED about their education and the opportunity for them to get a GED and become employed tax paying citizens!
    I have 15 years experience as an Adult Education Instructor and the WIA Program is needed…..since October 2009 and with 7 students coming to my classroom, 4 have attained their GED! Please reinstate this much needed program!!!

  22. I see first hand the challenges people face to keep positive and strive for job preparedness when there are no jobs available. However the disabled, at risk, and those needing skills to find other careers because they cannot continue in their present job find the WIA necessary. If you could just look at the accomplishments and success you would know how important the WIA is. We cannot continue helping people into the workforce without it.

  23. I can tell you WIA funds are wasted sending people to CDL mills . With over 90,000 jobs lost in the trucking industry in the last year and all major crriers reducing fleet size there is no need for anywhere near the number of students CDL mills are graduating . Other students report that WIA funded students have felony records and numerous driving violations that will disqualify them when applying for jobs . I’d bet less than 40% of CDL holders funded by WIA are working in the industry 6 months to a year after graduating .
    Is WIA also funding training in other trades that have tens of thousands of unemployed workers ? The more money that is wasted on misfits the less is available for deserving applicants .

  24. A Public Library/Workforce Development Partnerships can be extremely valuable to both partners. Anne Arundel County Public Library system (MD) has just begun a partnership with the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation. The partnership includes 2 job search specialists each working in one of our Area libraries for 20 hours per week. These specialists are paid by Workforce Development using Federal stimulus funds. The job search specialists assist patrons with job searches, completing job applications and resume writing. Sharing of information as to what Workforce Development has available for individuals and what the library provides for job-seekers in ongoing. Job-related programs sponsored by Workforce Development and the library are offered. Plans to expand the job search specialists to other branches are under discussion.

  25. Not only has the economic climate changed in the past 11 years, but the way people find and apply for jobs has changed as well. Public libraries often play a critical role in helping people locate employment opportunities, apply for jobs online, create resumes, set up their own email accounts, etc. The public library is the ideal place to host a Community Conversation — and the public librarian who works there is an ideal resource for spreading the word about the WIA.

  26. We need to provide for more effective collaboration between the different agencies and organizations that come into contact with the members of our communities who are looking for jobs or are looking for better jobs. The local public library sees many of them and is oftentimes the first point of contact for helping them navigate the system. Currently, public libraries must do alot of the legwork to navigate the local system AFTER it is created. The future WIA structure should include the public librarian at the table before the policies and procedures are established. This would make for a much more efficient delivery of services. Please contact your local public librarian when you schedule your community forums….they will provide a wealth of information and practical experience.

  27. My son has been displaced as an architectural engineer in the Cincinnati area for over a year.We as parents,just invested over at least eighty thousand dollars educating him. Now the jobs are gone our retirement is too and I’m disabled. When my son went to Kentucky’s classes for grant money for trying to get into a different medical field with classes starting in January he couldn’t get his adviser to talk to him before February. He hasn’t the money to spend for re-education nor do we. Their only solution was to start classes and pay until we can fit you in. The department has one adviser for everyone wanting to enter the medical field and that’s it. She oversees the allocation of 150 different programs. We asked our son about any jobs in his field in the area but all have been contracted out to the Army Corps of Engineers. What about the general public getting those contracts to get back to work? We are eager for a recovery and to have our lives back! Not by giving the government a bigger role in our job market. WE worked hard to put our son through school not for him to have the market shuffled off to the military. The American Dream only works if you know someone in the business,that’s what they call networking now,I call it the good old boy society. For us people playing by the rules ,It Stinks!

  28. I feel as if the WIA program in Cleveland, Ohio is not working. I don’t understand that for those that are unemployed how going to schools that are in contract with the county helps a person. I feel that if a person can prove that their doing something for the 30 hours per week as requested; what difference does it make if they go to the schools that are contracted with the county? Especially when the schools that are contracted with the county are crooked and the list is updated every 6 months to a year. That is not helping the people of Cleveland. We need more revision on this program and not let the jurisdiction be giving to each state to make their adjustments as they see fit. It would be more beneficial if it was a guideline created across the board. I am forced due to the lack of employment, advancement and chance to grow as a professional to move to a state that I can progress educationally and professionally.

  29. My experience with the Workforce Investment Act has been less than favorable!
    I have had descriminatory remarks made to me concerning my age. The scholarship that I applied for was prorated because the local office did not have the personell to process the application in a timely manner. I feel that because I have the intelligence to make the phone calls and write letters to obtain the results necessary to get the wheels moving played a major part in my fall semester being prorated.The billions of dollars that President Obama’s education stimulus package offered apparently did not reach Workforce’s accounts. I will continue my education. Without it I don’t stand a chance in the job market!

  30. Public libraries are and have been a resource for those seeking work and/or increasing their skill level/education to get a better job. As a public librarian in a small community, I see this over and over again. Most recently I was stopped in the grocery store by a woman who was a frequent library user. I asked why I hadn’t seen her in a while. “I have a new job.” she said, “And I want to thank the library and (our library assistant). He helped me write my resume and get my application together. He helped me file it as I wasn’t sure how to do it on-line. I have a great job now with benefits!”
    Public libraries around the country can and do serve as work force development agents by default. We offer access to on-line services, expertise in navigating these services and a central location in most every community. And most importantly public libraries have a long history of collaboration and cooperation with both government and private industry in creating and implementing programming of all kinds. It is a neutral ground in which everyone can grow…

  31. Don’t forget that local public libraries are a part of the Workforce picture solutions. Many come to us when they have no access to the internet, need help with resumes and job skills.

    Many employers only have online applications and the working public rely on us to provide that bridge of equal footing between the haves and the have nots. Many libraries have extensive book collections on finding jobs, dressing for success, access to local job markets, resumes, cover letters etc.

    Many libraries also provide programs to those who need a little more help preparing people for the jobs that they want.

    Additionally, Georgia is a Work Ready State and residents use their libraries to “test up” to a higher proficiency level, thus preparing them for better employment options.

    – Alan Harknes, Director
    Piemdont Regional Library System
    Winder, GA

  32. I’m an older man, who has recently regained competence in his academics, which are pretty awesome according to my friends, but seem so thin to me. My disability of bipolar disorder was exacerbated by a terrible event that left me without much of a memory at all. Some called it PTSD. My counselor, a PhD psychologist, never really named it for the 6 1/2 years I’ve seen her twice a week. I am still fragile. So are a lot of the academically trained but non-degreed disabled folks. Come out? Into the razor-sharp world of business where our training is laughed at, particularly those of us who trained to HELP other people? The ability to work a little at a time; to de-sensitize if you will, to acclimatize if you won’t, isn’t there. In the Social Security Administrative Law, there are 9 months of full time work before benefits cease, but, sure, they begin again if you become disabled again. I cannot afford the risk. My health is too fragile to play Monopoly with people who are on the ball better than I. I am a scholar, not a bright, Mr. Chipper guy with the rule book. I propose to practice chemistry, the most wanted profession not because it’s in demand but because that’s what I liked. Even the schools are too demanding to finish my education, formally. Why don’t we allow groups of disabled but like-minded people to incorporate under the law as formal rehabilitation groups to slow the world down a bit? It’s mostly just for reassurance, but for a real issue, the corporation could intervene, and in collective matters such as obtaining past records or clarifying documents that I know people like me need from 20-25 years previously. Is it a waste of Federal money to allow people to work at their own speed for however long it takes them to get there, for all practical purposes, when the money benefit stops on the 9th month but the benefit itself continues uninterrupted on the very next month below benefit amount? I am advocating real, true expedited recovery of benefits, so as to not lose one’s home, for instance. Let’s talk.

  33. i would like to say that the workforce investment act was sent to my town and the money was pushed forth into program, education and what ever was on the books. i know, be cause my son received the workforce investment money for school. i would like to take this time to say thank to obama, and my town union,nj

  34. As the director of an organization that promotes author-mentored programming for young people in the commonwealth of Kentucky and the Great Lakes region I applaud the dialogue focused on ways to make the Workforce Reinvestment Act Reauthorization Act more reflective of the diverse constituency groups within any given community. Underpinning any successful any educational programming designed to increase the likelihood for gainful employment must most assuredly be predicated upon instilling in young people the means through which to express them in written form. Unfortunately the way that language arts instruction is presented—in the form of irrelevant workshops, with no bearing to one’s unique culture and local conditions and environment—frequently does more harm than good in making the art of writing just another boring irrelevant exercise, instead of the most empowering steps to critical thinking, and, thus, high paying jobs. Authors as mentors allows young people to see literary artists as real people, individuals who stand up against conventional wisdom—a point of view so radically at odds with some who dominate educational hierarchies who unfortunately try fit the same shoe on our diversely talented young people!

  35. My office has been looking at “Education Attainment” and “Gainful Employment” as part of the holistic, infrastructural, systemic and value-added way to address Concentrated Poverty in Milwaukee. It is a template for any other urban environment with similar unique and deplorable circumstances due to abandonment, discrimination and lack of accountability.
    The end game is empowerment of the adult stakeholders for quality of life gains that supports growth in the family and neighborhood. It is about a stimulus-2-recovery paradigm with immediate and long-term sustainability. It is about education attainment for living life and support of self and family.
    DOE-DOL-HUD-DOC
    It requires linkage of the Department of Education, Department of Labor, Department of Commerce and Housing and Urban Development; and, uses linkage of the state-supported community college and the state-supported 4-year college for Apprenticeship, Certification and Degree training.

    It trains potential and experienced entrepreneurs. It provides the wherewithal for the NL/Neighborhood-level business owner to upgrade his/her training as well as provide academic and practicum for the employee. The N-L is the BOTTOM-UP catalyst for hiring and re-entering many un-, under-, self- and re-entry Milwaukeeans that have been forgotten in today’s assessment of the economy.

    The Voc Ed and the linkage/partnership of the four (4) federal agencies are vital to the success. They must all come to the table with specific dollars, transparency, best practices, enforcement and customer care for success.

    Support for the N-L business owners (Neighborhood-level LBOs – local business owners, neighborhood-level) is where the DOE-DOC and DOL collaborate with the LBOs and require a MOU-Memorandum of Understanding between state or any other distribution of funds.

    MPA-Milwaukee Professionals Association has addressed the connector of this type of needed training with secondary education and the Race to the Top Parent Signature Plan – K thru 16.

  36. President Obama’s clip addressed the importance of parents in education. “Parents the first teacher” and ” Parents are the most important teachers”

    This is so true but parents teaching has to start long before school time. It has to start at or before conception. The values teaching is first and foremost. This determines if the child is ever going to be a student at all and what kind of student.
    The schools must be a player in preparing future parents for parenthood. Improving schools without addressing values will be an uphill battle with sporadic results.
    Secy. Duncan spoke of this in Chicago Oct 7 and I offered to be part of his national conversation on values. My treatise, ‘My Child:For a Better World’ was forwarded to him recently and could be a vital suggestion on improving education in this country.

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