Today, the President will sign the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law, marking the end of the legislative phase of an 11-year Workforce Investment Act reauthorization process. AACC supported this bipartisan legislation, which earlier this summer passed Congress by overwhelming margins. The bill is not perfect, and the regulatory action needed to implement the act’s provisions will be important to how this law affects community colleges and their students.
In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden would engage in a review of federal job training programs with an eye towards better aligning them and ensuring that they are “job-driven.” This morning, the White House released the results of that review, including a number of initiatives that the federal government and non-governmental organizations plan to undertake. Many of these are already underway in the form of existing programs, and several of the reforms mentioned in the document will be put in place by the WIOA.
The plan establishes a checklist of elements that federal agencies will seek to encourage or require of the education and job training programs that they administer. The checklist includes items such as engaging employers, measuring results, and ensuring that various programs are better connected. The administration notes that this checklist played a role in $950 million in grants to be awarded this year (including round 4 of the TAACCCT grants) and $1.4 billion in grants to be awarded by various agencies in 2015. The checklist will also be incorporated into economic development and manufacturing extension programs, as well as shared with governors.
The Department of Labor (DOL), in partnership with the Department of Commerce, will establish a new Center for Workforce and Industry Partnerships, which will champion regional partnerships. DOL will also be creating a business engagement metric for all WIOA-funded programs, and adult education programs will need to address how they will teach “employability skills.” The document also notes that WIOA-funded job training programs will be required to display outcomes in a standard “scorecard” format, and that DOL does not plan to offer waivers to WIOA’s requirements in this area, as it had often done in the past. The scorecard requirements are embedded in WIOA itself.
A number of pilot programs were announced, including Department of Education experimental sites to explore student aid eligibility for competency-based and shorter term training programs, and prior learning assessment, which were originally put forward last year as part of the president’s college affordability proposals. The administration’s ongoing focus on getting the long-term unemployed back to work and expanding apprenticeship programs will also be addressed in today’s release.