What the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Means for Employers

Overview: Following overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate and House, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) supported this legislation to reform the federal job training system and sent a joint support letter to Congress with its affiliate, the Council for Global Immigration.

WIOA authorizes federal employment and training programs. It is designed to help individuals acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for today’s economy and to connect employers to the skilled workers they need. WIOA includes four main programs:

  1. Adult, dislocated worker and youth employment and training programs administered by the Department of Labor (DOL);
  2. Adult education and literacy programs administered by the Department of Education (ED);
  3. Wagner-Peyser Act employment service programs administered by the DOL; and
  4. Rehabilitation Act programs that provide services to individuals with disabilities administered by the ED.

Implementation Timeline: In general, WIOA takes effect on July 1, 2015. The DOL will issue further guidance on the time frames for implementation of these changes and will issue proposed regulations reflecting the changes in WIOA in the coming months.

Benefits to Employers: The new law is structured to focus more on the employment needs of employers and to develop strategies for meeting those needs. At the local level, the local workforce board will lead efforts to engage employers, including small employers and employers in in-demand industries. The new law promotes the use of sector (e.g., health care, manufacturing) strategies to form partnerships among key stakeholders in a local area. In addition, WIOA retains business majority membership on both state and local workforce boards to reinforce a demand-drive system. Lastly, it allows greater flexibility for the delivery of training services available to employers by increasing the ability to use on-the-job training, pay-for-performance training contracts and incumbent worker training to meet employers’ needs.

Impact on HR Professionals: The law modernizes the federal workforce development system, with its expansive network of one-stop centers. These one-stop centers are designed to assist HR professionals by helping employers of all sizes meet their talent pipeline needs. Local one-stop centers, found in every region across the country, can post job openings, screen applicants onsite, and work with employers to meet their education and training needs. The federal workforce development system is designed to help employers find talent for hard-to-fill jobs– especially middle-skilled jobs. Most importantly, WIOA provides the opportunity for HR professionals to partner with state and local workforce investment boards, which oversee much of the strategic direction and prioritizing of federal employment and training dollars in the local community.

Veterans: WIOA has several provisions which are designed to support veteran-related services, such as targeting employment services to dislocated members of the Armed Forces. In addition, the law includes

provisions regarding veteran representation on state and local workforce boards, and funding is provided to help veterans and people with disabilities navigate multiple service programs and activities at the one-stop centers.

People with Disabilities: WIOA makes several significant changes to help individuals with disabilities access services and improve employment outcomes. The Act strengthens collaboration between vocational rehabilitation agencies and employers where historically coordination has been challenging and inconsistent. In addition, the law will strengthen services for youth with disabilities transitioning from school to employment or postsecondary education. The law guarantees access to pre-employment transition services, such as work-based learning experiences, job exploration and work readiness training for these students.

Apprenticeships: The registered apprenticeship is an employment model that allows workers to earn a paycheck while they learn new skills and acquire credentials. Under the new law, apprenticeship programs are automatically eligible to be included as eligible training providers. In addition, apprenticeship organizations can now be members of the workforce boards and more funding is directed for youth to participate in pre-apprenticeship programs.

Long-Term Unemployed: The law contains a provision stating that individuals with barriers to employment, including the long-term unemployed, should remain a priority population for employment and training services.

Ex-offenders: The law increases funding within the adult education program to serve ex-offenders and assist entry back into the workforce. Ex-offenders attempting to re-enter the workforce will be eligible for job training, including training administered through pay-for-performance contracts and transitional jobs which often assist individuals with poor work histories.

Connecting Youth to Employment: With high youth unemployment and many youth without high school diplomas or postsecondary credentials, the WIOA maintains and expands elements that support youth programming and raises the age limit for services for out-of-school youth to age 24.

Additional Information: Updates regarding WIOA implementation, including links to guidance, assistance and opportunities to provide stakeholder input, will be posted on the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) WIOA resource page at www.doleta.gov/WIOA . The WIOA resource page will be updated with new tools and resources, including FAQs, as they become available. In addition, official ETA guidance on WIOA will be posted on ETA’s advisory website, http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives.

Stay Tuned, SHRM Members: SHRM will continue to be actively engaged in the implementation of WIOA and will submit comments on proposed regulations to make sure the needs of HR professionals are represented throughout the regulatory process. Stay tuned for additional updates.


All contents copyright 2014, SHRM. This document may be reprinted provided the following is included: “Copyright 2014. SHRM. Reprinted with permission.” For more information, call 1-800-283-7476. If you have questions regarding SHRM’s labor policy, please contact Kelly Hastings, Senior Advisor, Government Relations, at kelly.hastings@shrm.org or (703) 535-6246.



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