The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

What is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act? The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed in 2014 and began implementation in 2015. It is the federal legislation that brings together in strategic coordination most of the core federal programs investing in skill development, including

  • employment and training services for adults, dislocated workers, and youth, and Wagner-Peyser employment services for those seeking work administered by the US Department of Labor through formula grants to states; and
  • adult education and literacy programs and vocational rehabilitation state grant programs that assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining employment administered by the US Department of Education.

WIOA also authorizes programs for specific vulnerable populationsincluding the Job Corps, YouthBuild, Native American programs, and migrant and seasonal farmworker programsand evaluations and multistate projects administered by the US Department of Labor.

Why is the WIOA important? The WIOA is the primary source of federal workforce development funding to prepare low-income adults, youth, and dislocated workers for employment and help them continue to build skills once employed. It is also the main source of federal adult education and literacy funding, including English language services. WIOA also provides connections for individuals with disabilities to the workforce system.

Some important aspects of WIOA include

  • an increase in the priority for providing services to out-of-school youth ages 16 to 24 from prior legislation;
  • encouragement of the implementation of career-pathway approaches;
  • improving services to employers by promoting sector-based partnerships and making state and local workforce boards responsible for activities to meet the workforce needs of local and regional employers; and
  • encouraging work-based learning activities, such as on-the-job training, registered apprenticeships, unpaid work experiences, like internships and job shadowing, and incumbent worker training.

Under WIOA legislation, workforce development boards are the key institutions that carry out state and local plans for workforce development and coordinating federal, state, and local funding for core workforce programs. WIOA mandates the colocation of services from different workforce programs, and American Job Centers provide direct services to individuals and employers.