Open Sesame: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 2015 to Bridge the Skills Gap and Bring in Opportunities | DCR Workforce Blog

Open Sesame: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 2015 to Bridge the Skills Gap and Bring in Opportunities

The final regulations of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2015 (WIOA) were passed recently. The Act creates a single funding stream for job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), which also amends the Wagner-Peyser Act and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, and reauthorizes adult-education programs and programs under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Also known as the “Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act” or “SKILLS Act” in an earlier, unimproved version, the Act aims at reducing the skills gap and holds distinction for being legislation that is endorsed by both parties. The effects of the Act will be reviewed after six years to see how many people were helped to get jobs through these programs aiming to change workforce investment systems for job training and employment services as well as adult education and family literacy education.

From skills gap to gainfully employed?

The job market is full of frustrated job aspirants unable to fend for their families because they lack the basic necessary skills to earn them a steady paycheck. It’s this crisis with minimum skills (a.k.a. skills gap) that drives the revised Act to try and bridge it effectively. The job training program this time around puts processes in place to avoid the bureaucracy and lack of direction that dogged the previous federal job training program – and to measure the program’s outcomes more precisely.

Against this background, the WIOA’s guidelines contribute to economic growth by improving services to employers and promoting work-based training. It also helps job seekers acquire industry-recognized credentials for in-demand jobs by providing access to high quality training and industry-recognized post-secondary credentials. The WIOA lays out the details for the strategic coordination of the core programs of Federal investment in skill development such as:

  • Employment and training services for adults, dislocated workers and youth as well as the Wagner-Peyser employment services administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) through formula grants to states
  • Adult education and literacy programs and state-level Vocational Rehabilitation grant programs that assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining employment administered by the Department of Education
  • Programs for specific vulnerable populations, including the Job Corps, Youth Build, Indian and Native Americans, and Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs as well as evaluation and multistate projects administered by the DOL as well as the programs administered by DoED and the Department of Health and Human Services

New and improved

The all-new WIOA regulations promise to revitalize the public workforce system and meet the needs of nearly 20 million job-seekers and workers by connecting them to high-quality career and employers and providing them access to talent pipelines that will help grow their business and the U.S. economy.

The WIOA pays special attention to the needs of people with disabilities, out-of-school and at-risk youth, youth in foster care or young adults who have aged out of foster care, formerly incarcerated individuals, and other populations in need, all of whom face tremendous disadvantages when they try to succeed in the mainstream. The final rules will also help the approximately 1 million veterans, who use these services every year, better translate the skills they learned in the military into quality civilian careers.

The final rules also put a greater emphasis on reemployment strategies and require rapid response activities at the state level in response to layoffs or other workforce reductions. By requiring education and training providers to publicly report their results, the WIOA ensures transparency and accountability while helping the millions of people who use these services to make more informed choices about which programs to pursue.

How it will help

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is expected to help by:

  • Providing access to one-stop centers and training providers
  • Making the use of funds more flexible
  • Setting common performance parameters and indicators for all the programs under the bill
  • Eliminating ineffective programs
  • Preventing bureaucracy and duplication of efforts
  • Encouraging skill training and expanding the funding for college aid and vocational training.
  • Working to remove the stigma surrounding vocational education
  • Creating skilled workers to fill real, well-paid, skill-specific jobs
  • Ensuring that workers can gain immediate access the right training
  • Supporting transition to postsecondary education, training or employment
  • Aligning disability programs better
  • Making state and local plans include advanced manufacturing workforce development strategies
  • Supporting professional development for employment services staff
  • Introducing evaluation and research into adult education activities by ensuring that Federal investments in employment and training programs are evidence-based and data-driven
  • Introducing transparency by making the activities accountable to stakeholders and tax-payers

It’s not going to be a quick fix, but it is hoped that over time, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will help workers earn the skills employers are looking for and that American businesses will have the talent pool they need to fill millions of unfilled jobs to compete and win in the global economy.

If you know of anyone who would benefit from these services, please encourage them to contact their local economic development office and ask about how they can get help under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.