Modernizing the Workforce System

By Laura Walling, Vice President of Government Affairs, Goodwill Industries International

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is due for reauthorization. WIOA is the primary federal workforce development law. It supports a nationwide network of one-stop career centers through which job seekers receive career services and training opportunities, including job search assistance, education, supportive services, and on-the-job training.

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan WIOA reauthorization bill called A Stronger Workforce for America Act, which proposes to make some key changes and updates to current law. We applaud the bipartisan efforts to improve and modernize our nation’s workforce system, however the bill could be strengthened.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee recently held a hearing on WIOA reauthorization and have been working on their own bill, with a goal to mark it up before the August recess. During the hearing, witnesses touched on some common themes including adequate funding, flexibility and data sharing.

Goodwill seeks to advance policy solutions that will strengthen the workforce system and improve outcomes. We recommend policymakers focus on three essential components: strengthen partnerships among workforce stakeholders; address barriers to employment; and promote innovation in the design and delivery of workforce programs.

Strengthening Partnerships

  • Ensure CBOs have a meaningful voice in planning and decision-making processes in their states and local workforce areas.
  • Eliminate inefficiencies and streamline the delivery of workforce programs and services.
  • Ensure participants have access to holistic support services.
  • Resource community-based service providers to deliver training services to job seekers.

Address Barriers to Employment

  • Authorize increased funding levels for the core WIOA adult, youth, and dislocated worker grants.
  • Preserve WIOA programs that address the needs of populations facing persistent barriers to employment, including opportunity youth.
  • Codify the Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) grant program in law to ensure that justice-impacted youth and adults have access to holistic pre-and post-release employment and training.
  • Ensure resources are available for supportive services as a required activity in local areas, and prioritize funding of career, training, and supportive services that benefit individuals with barriers to employment.

Promote Workforce System Innovation

  • Recognize digital skills and digital literacy as foundational skills for youth and adults.
  • Promote access to high-quality apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and youth apprenticeship programs.
  • Expand on effective frameworks for innovation, including career pathways and sector strategies.
  • Provide flexible funding to experiment with program models and expand pay-for-performance initiatives.

We’ll continue to engage with lawmakers as they work to reauthorize WIOA and keep our advocates informed of major developments.