Senator Tom Harkin (chair of the Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions committee) must be beaming right now.
After some ten plus years of pushing for agreement on the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, both chambers of Congress have finally passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)! And we can certainly live with the longer acronym.
So far, the 811-page bill seems to offer little in the way of controversy and a great deal that makes good sense. Local workforce investment boards will have simple majorities of business representatives but fewer requirements driving them to unmanageable size. If any of you have ever served on a 64-person board, you can understand why this is an important system improvement.
Note that part of the ‘board trimming’ involved removal of the Senior Community Service Employment Program and Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families as mandated partners. The back and forth that’s been going on about state set asides is also resolved in favor of the 15 percent figure. States will also enjoy complete flexibility to reallocating up to 100 percent of funds between their Adult and Dislocated Workers programs. Operators and providers should especially care about the new common measures, which are basically 1) percent in unsubsidized employment; 2) employment retention in the second and fourth quarters after exit; 3) average earnings in the second quarter after exit; 4) credentials. There are also indicators intended to capture the effectiveness in serving employers. The faction in Congress pushing for “consolidation” of workforce programs will also be able to claim victory with the elimination of 15 programs. Their impact however, will hardly be felt since most have seen little or no authorized funding for years.