Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

On July 22, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. WIOA is intended to revamp America’s workforce system by helping job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the local, national and global markets. WIOA was passed with strong bicameral, bipartisan support and is in fact the first legislative reform in 15 years of the public workforce system.

WIOA is authorized through 2019.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: An Historical Perspective

WIOA supersedes the Workforce Investment Act of August 1998 (WIA) which was intended to reform federal job training programs and create a new, comprehensive workforce investment system. The Act implements a universal access system of “one stop” career centers, which are single neighborhood locations where job seekers can find most of the information they need to find employment. The centers also provide access to useful training and employment services for a range of employers and workers, including low-income adults, low-income youth, and dislocated workers. These programs are administered primarily through the Department of Labor, but also through the Departments of Education and of Health and Human Services. WIA superseded the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) of 1982 which was enacted to establish federal assistance programs to prepare youth and unskilled adults for entry into the labor force and to provide job training to economically disadvantaged and other individuals facing serious barriers to employment.

WIOA also amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In general, the Act took effect on July 1, 2015, the first full program year after enactment, unless otherwise noted. The U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL) issued further guidance on the timeframes for implementation of said changes and proposed regulations reflecting the changes in WIOA soon after enactment.

Why Is This Important to NAPE?

WIOA is an important piece of legislation for multiple reasons, including that it actively helps the U.S. economy to grow. WIOA aligns job training and education programs with the needs of businesses and job seekers and teaches individuals the skills necessary to obtain jobs. Most importantly, the Act helps individuals with “barriers to employment,” including entering and remaining in the workforce and becoming economically self-sufficient. Given these goals, WIOA is particularly well suited to address the needs of low-income individuals, women, and underrepresented minorities, all of whom often have difficulties obtaining stable and well-paying employment. WIOA helps women, underrepresented minorities, and low-income individuals enter nontraditional yet high-paying careers, such as engineering and technical fields, which benefits individuals, by teaching them applicable, modern-day skills, and the U.S. economy, by bolstering the country’s scientific and technological competitiveness.

Current Status

March 30, 2022: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022 (H.R. 7309)

January 20, 2016: NAPE comments on Proposed Rulemaking on Apprenticeship Programs; Equal Employment Opportunity Regulations

July 22, 2014: WIOA is signed into law by President Obama. Read More

July 10, 2014: The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act with an overwhelming vote of 415 to 6. Learn More

July 7, 2014: NAPE signed on to a letter expressing support for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and urging the every member of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of H.R. 803.

June 25, 2014: The Senate passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) by a vote 95-3. Learn More from Politico

October 11, 2013: NAPE signs onto letter urging Congress to bring WIA reauthorization to the floor in 2013.

September 18, 2013: National Skills Coalition released a side-by-side comparison of the current occupational training and adult education and family literacy provisions in current law to legislation in the House and Senate to reauthorize WIA.

July 31, 2013: The Senate Health, Education, Pension, and Labor Committee passed S. 1356, the WIA reauthorization bill, with a bipartisan vote of 18-3. The bill will now advance to the Senate floor for a vote by the whole chamber.

July 26, 2013: Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) officially introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize WIA. The Workforce Investment Act of 2013, or S.1356, contains some positive elements for CTE, including prioritization of career pathways and programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials and high-demand jobs.

July 11, 2013: The Senate Appropriators Committee advanced a FY 2014 spending bill for labor, health, and education programs. The bill includes $2.7 billion (an increase of $86 million) for WIA Grants to States to provide job training skills and assistance to low-skilled adults, dislocated workers, and low-income youth with barriers to employment. Read more here.

Necessary Action

Because WIA has been pending reauthorization since 2003, many people have argued that the law should be reauthorized as soon as possible and should account for changing economic demands. WIA in its original form strongly emphasized short-term training and repaid re-employment for job seekers, but with the changing global economy, many emerging industries now require longer-term training. Additionally, significant decreases in funding have made it even difficult for many of the laws’ provisions to be effectively implemented, making reauthorization an even more pressing concern.

If and when WIA is reauthorized, Congress must prioritize services for individual most in need of assistance, including low-income women with barriers to training and employment. It should focus on moving individuals into high-wage, high-skill jobs to help them achieve self-sufficiency. For more information on NAPE’s legislative recommendations, please visit NAPE’s Public Policy Agenda.

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