WIOA: A Vision to Revitalize the Workforce System

Reminder: Public comments are being accepted on the 5 proposed notices of rulemaking until June 15, 2015. See the announcement with docket numbers, an FAQ document, a recorded statement by Acting Assistant Secretary Uvin, and a recorded webinar on entering comments.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) aims to increase access to and opportunities for employment, education, training, and support services, particularly for individuals with the greatest barriers to employment. WIOA, which marks the most significant change to the Federal adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development systems in more than a decade, promotes stronger alignment of workforce, education, vocational rehabilitation, and other human services systems in order to improve the structure and delivery of services to individuals, including adults and youth with disabilities and others who face barriers to employment.

While the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services have always strived to create and expand access to education, training, and employment opportunities for the millions of youth and adults who seek services through their programs, WIOA modernizes and streamlines the workforce development system to offer holistic, wrap around services to support gainful employment in the competitive integrated labor market. WIOA also supports innovative strategies to keep pace with changing economic conditions and calls for improved collaboration among agencies, not just at the State and local levels, but also at the Federal level.

The successful implementation of WIOA will require States and local areas to establish strong partnerships with core programs and other partners in the community, including local educational agencies, in order to successfully serve program participants, workers, and learners. WIOA’s unified and combined state planning provisions support this coordination by requiring a four-year strategy based on an analysis of workforce, employment and unemployment data, labor market trends, and the educational and skills level of a State’s workforce. The strategic planning process will help States align education, employers, and the public workforce system for efficient and effective use of resources. This coordinated planning will also ensure that programs and services are responsive to employer, business, and regional and community needs.

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act — Five Notices of Proposed Rulemaking Available for Public Comment

On April 16, 2015, the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Labor (DOL) announced the release of five notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) related to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law on July 22, 2014.  The NPRMs are available for public comment on the Federal Register website at http://www.regulations.gov.  We encourage you to share this information with interested stakeholders.

The five NPRMs include:

  • DOL NPRM – This NPRM proposes to implement changes made to titles I and III of WIOA, including the adult, dislocated worker, and youth formula programs; state and local workforce development boards; designation of regions and local areas; local plans; the one-stop system; and national programs authorized under title I; and amends the Wagner-Peyser Act under title III. Provide your comments on docket ETA-2015-0001.
  • Joint Rule for Unified and Combined State Plans, Performance Accountability, and the One-Stop System Joint Provisions —The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor developed a joint rule proposing to implement jointly-administered activities under title I of WIOA regarding Unified and Combined State Plans, performance accountability, and the one-stop system. The proposed rules in the joint NPRM apply to all core programs, including the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act programs. Provide your comments on docket ETA-2015-0002.
  • Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) NPRM – This NPRM proposes to implement changes to programs and activities authorized under AEFLA, which is contained in title II of WIOA. Provide your comments on docket ED-2015-OCTAE-0003.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act)—These two NPRMs propose to implement changes made to the programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act, which is contained in title IV of WIOA, as well as implement new provisions:
    • State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program; State Supported Employment Services program; Limitations on the Use of Subminimum Wage — This NPRM proposes to implement changes to the State Vocational Rehabilitation Services program and the State Supported Employment Services program, as well as implement provisions in new Section 511 (Limitations on the Use of Subminimum Wages). Provide your comments on docket ED-2015-OSERS-0001.
    • Miscellaneous program changes – This NPRM proposes to implement changes to other Rehabilitation Act programs administered by ED. Provide your comments on docket ED-2015-OSERS-0002.

The Departments invite public comment on the proposed regulations for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.  Comments may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov or hard copy comments may be submitted via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery.  Instructions for submitting public comments are described in each of the NPRMs published in the Federal Register.  Any comments not received through the processes outlined in the NPRMs will not be considered by the departments.  All comments must be received on or before June 15, 2015.

View the joint DOL and ED press release announcing the release of the NPRMs.

For more information on the NPRMs and additional resources, please visit www.ed.gov/aefla.

Creating a Clear Path to Better Jobs for Low-Skilled Workers Stuck in Front-line Positions

America is creating millions of jobs. But, too many of these jobs go unfilled – five million to be exact. At the same time, there are roughly 8.7 million Americans looking for work and 24 million front-line workers who could fill these jobs, if they had the skills or were given the opportunity.

As the economy continues to improve, more and more employers struggle to find skilled workers with the requisite skills to fill in-demand jobs. At the same time, between twenty and thirty million workers in low-wage jobs – many of whom could be trained to fill more skilled roles – lack a clear path to a better job and career. According to the OECD, these workers are about half as likely as their high-skilled colleagues to participate in any job-relevant education or training over the course of the year. These workers need expanded opportunities and lowered barriers to gain both basic and technical skills.

In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, the President called on employers across the country to adopt or expand additional measures to help front-line workers gain the training and credentials to advance into better paying jobs – including paying for college education, offering on-the-job training for career progression, and increasing access to technology-enabled learning tools. The day after, the President’s first stop and appearance was at Boise State University in Idaho where he launched an “Upskill America” initiative:

Today, we’re partnering with business across the country to “Upskill America” — to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they don’t have a higher education.  We want to recruit more companies to help provide apprenticeships and other pathways so that people can upgrade their skills.  We’re all going to have to do that in this new economy.  But it’s hard to do it on your own, especially if you’re already working and supporting a family. 

Many employers have already developed promising approaches to training and credentialing for upskilling front-line workers as part of successful talent strategies. And, we know that many others see the opportunity to benefit their workforce and bottom lines through investments in the skills of their front-line workers. This challenge creates a great opportunity for business, industry, labor, and government to team up and find and support a solution together.

The Administration is working with employers to identify and spread best practices for education, training and credentialing of front-line workers to help with their job progression. Examples of these practices are employers paying for their front-line workers’ college education, identifying clear internal pathways, providing career counseling and coaching, offering on-the-job training that leads to career progression, and providing access to online and technology-enabled education tools so workers can develop their basic and technical skills.

In the coming months, businesses of all sizes will be convened, as well as foundations, education and training non-profits and other partners who are committing to make new investments, to collectively set new goals and change policies that will enable low-skilled front-line workers to progress into better-paying jobs and help employers meet their current and projected unmet demand for skilled labor.

This effort to improve the skills of front-line workers builds on the actions Vice President Biden presented to President Obama on July 22, 2014 as part of his report Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity. In his 2014 State of the Union address, the President had tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of federal employment and training programs, with the aim of making them more job-driven. Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity highlights successful job-driven training strategies, details executive actions that are being taken by the federal government, and new commitments by employers, non-profits, unions and innovators to help spread what’s working. As indicated in the release of the Ready to Work report, if you’re ready to work, you should be able to find a job that fits your skills, or get trained with the skills you need for a better job.

In November 2014, U.S. Secretary of Labor Perez launched The Skills Working Group, an interagency effort to maintain focus and attention around interagency, collaborative efforts of the Job-Driven Training Initiative, as well as emerging opportunities around cross-agency skills coordination. Thirteen federal agencies, the White House National Economic Council, and the Office of Management and Budget make up The Skills Working Group including the departments of Labor, Education, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Energy, Defense, Justice, Interior, and the Social Security Administration. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education has been an active contributor to this work and leads the career pathways and upskilling work streams.

I find it inspiring to see businesses and labor-management initiatives expand access to training and provide supports for Americans to access pathways into the middle class. CVS Health, for example, is expanding access to job-advancement training for their employees by launching two new regional learning centers that will serve thousands of additional employees in the next two years. This builds on the six regional learning centers CVS Health currently operates in partnership with community colleges and other community service organizations, to help support thousands of workers as they build customer service- and healthcare-related job skills for career progression. The Upstate NY 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund started C.N.A. training in the Syracuse (Central NY) area three years ago for incumbent SEIU members to allow lower level workers (dietary and housekeeping) to move up the career ladder.  Since this initiative was not always able to fill this program with incumbent workers, they started drawing on people from the community.  Community participants are funded through grants.

It is also exciting to see how many opportunities the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides for businesses – in partnership with adult education and youth and adult training providers or otherwise – to ensure that our nation’s workforce is ready to work and remains highly skilled and competitive. Whether it is through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act – Title II of WIOA – or through any of the other core programs, WIOA can play a critical role in achieving the goals of UpSkill America. Here are just a few ways that WIOA can do this:

  • Employer partnerships with education providers are eligible entities under Title II. This creates opportunities for employers and providers to team up and offer foundation skill development opportunities for low-skilled workers looking to get ahead. Learn more at a new, interactive site designed to support employer-adult education partnerships.
  • Employers can take advantage of increased access to work-based training. WIOA provides the ability for local workforce investment areas to help employers train their workers.
  • WIOA also increases reimbursement available for on-the-job training from 30 percent to 75 percent.
  • Businesses, under WIOA, can collaborate with American Job Centers, community colleges, and adult education providers to develop integrated education and training programs—including Registered Apprenticeships—at the workplace to help employees gain basic and technical skills and advance to the next level of work. Further, this collaboration can support regional sector strategies and the development of career pathways that support job seekers and help meet the needs of employers.
  • WIOA places a great emphasis on serving out-of-school youth. The new law requires local communities to spend at least 75 percent of available youth funding, or approximately $500 million, on this population. This provision goes into effect July 1, 2015. By partnering with the public sector to provide apprenticeships, internships, summer jobs, and other on-the-job training experiences, businesses can help the nation maximize opportunities for disconnected youth and young adults and build a skilled workforce.

The UpSkill America initiative, the implementation of WIOA, the modernization and expansion of apprenticeships, and the implementation of the executive actions in the Ready to Work report are all contributing to the momentum that is building in our country to make sure that all Americans have the skills that employers need and that will allow them to get ahead.


Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

Libraries and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This article is cross-posted on the UpNext! blog hosted by IMLS and the Department of Labor blog.

Guest authors: Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor

Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education, and

Susan Hildreth, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services


Our agencies have long recognized the role of libraries to help meet the workforce training and job search needs of the American public.  At the height of the recession, more than 30 million people reported using library computers for workforce related needs and 3.7 million of them reported finding work.  Today, 96 percent of libraries surveyed offer online job and employment resources and 78 percent offer programs to help people apply for jobs.

In July, the President signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) which strengthens and aligns Federal employment, education, and training servicesOverwhelmingly approved by both the House and the Senate, the legislation is the result of a bipartisan agreement that recognizes the vital role the workforce system plays in providing the services and resources job seekers need to access the kinds of skills training, career information, and education that are required for today’s job market. The Act aligns with and complements the President’s Vision for Job-Driven Workforce Development, as it prepares workers for 21st century jobs and ensures American businesses have skilled workers to be competitive in global economy.

We are pleased that WIOA includes several exciting changes that better align federal resources and call for local community-based partnerships to increase access to services.  WIOA explicitly identifies public libraries as potential partners of the American Job Center network, and acknowledges libraries’ ability to provide an expansive array of job search services. It also recognizes libraries as important providers of federally supported training and employment for adult education and literacy. WIOA instructs state and local workforce development boards to boost “digital literacy skills” at American Job Centers – a task perfectly suited to public libraries!

We are delighted that the role public libraries play in workforce development is being acknowledged. Every day, people in communities across the United States use libraries to access the Web for career development—boosting their skills through online learning, improving their English literacy and digital literacy, and finding work. Public libraries can do even more with better collaboration with state and local workforce boards.

We thank American Job Centers, the nation’s employment skills training programs, and public libraries for all they do to serve our nation’s job seekers and contribute to the country’s economic vitality.   Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we will deliver better coordinated services so that students and jobseekers acquire the skills needed in a competitive 21st century economy.

See other collaborative efforts:


Federal Agencies to Host Live Stream Dialogue on Career Pathways

On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services will host a National Dialogue on Career Pathways.  Federal agency leaders from each Department will provide opening remarks on the impact of building effective career pathways can have on our nation’s workforce system.  In addition, the Dialogue will highlight strategies and lessons learned from business leaders, state and local practitioners and national policy leaders.   Among the featured speakers will be

  • Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Labor’s Employment and Training Administration
  • Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education
  • Mark Greenburg, Acting Assistance Secretary for Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families
  • David L. Casey, Vice President for Workforce Strategies and Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Caremark
  • Maura Banta, Director of Global Citizenship Initiatives at IBM USA

National stakeholders representing business, organized labor, education, workforce and health and human services agencies are encouraged to host events in conjunction with the broadcast.   To help organize the event, a national Viewing Party Guide is now available.  Leading career pathways states and local areas, such as Colorado, Kansas, and Charlotte, NC will be highlighted as well as innovative career pathways practices from organizations like Instituto del Progreso Latino in Chicago, IL and Wider Opportunities for Women.

The National Dialogue will be broadcast via live stream beginning at 9:00 AM EDT and end at 4:00 PM EDT.  Before and during the event, you are encouraged to post questions on Twitter using the hashtag #careerpathways. The federal team will monitor your questions on Twitter and respond to them from the Labor Department Twitter account (@USDOL) during the event.

Sign up now to get email alerts from the new Career Pathways Exchange, a project funded by OCTAE to support states’ work on career pathways.  This email-based information service will connect interested stakeholders with career pathways-related resources, news, and events from a wide network of federal agencies and partner organizations. Members can select to receive email digests on their topics of interest, including: Building Cross-agency Partnerships, Identifying Sector/Engaging Employers, Designing Programs, Identifying Funding Needs, Aligning Policy and Programs, and Measuring System Change and Evaluations.

Suggested Social Media Posts for the National Dialogue:

Pre-event post: Join @USDOL @usedgov and @HHSGov on 9-23 @ 9:00 AM ET for a live stream plenary on #careerpathways.

Pre-event post: On 9-23 @ 9:00 AM ET, @USDOL @usedgov and @HHSGov will speak live about job-driven #careerpathways. Don’t miss it!

Day-of post: Join business leaders @cvscaremarkfyi’s David Casey and @IBM’s Maura Banta today via live stream @ National Dialogue! #careerpathways

Day-of post:  America, let’s talk about #careerpathways today!  Share your thoughts with us @USDOL @usedgov and @HHSGov.  Join the Dialogue.

Recap: OCTAE & OSERS Joint Blog on WIOA

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Office Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) thank all the contributors who submitted comments on the implementation of WIOA Title II and Title IV. We received 277 comments by the closing on August 29, 2014. See all the comments here.

This thoughtful feedback will be reviewed by the Offices and considered as we prepare the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on proposed regulations.

Please watch for the next opportunity to submit comments in January 2015 when the NPRM is released in the Federal Register.

WIOA Webinar: An Overview of Adult Education and Literacy

Join a webinar, The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): An Overview of Adult Education and Literacy, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).  This webinar will provide a broad overview of the legislation, key dates for implementation, and useful information on resources and materials for adult education and literacy partners and stakeholders. The event will also feature a panel of representatives from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor.

Date: Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time: 2:30pm – 4:00pm ET

The webinar will stream live from this link on the EdStream site and will be recorded. No registration or call-in phone number is necessary.

Please distribute this opportunity broadly with program staff, and representatives of local education agencies, researchers, business and industry, and other stakeholders.

Send questions in advance about WIOA implementation to AskAEFLA@ed.gov.

For other WIOA updates and resources, please visit OCTAE’s resource page at www.ed.gov/aefla.

Invitation to Comment on Implementation of Title II and Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This is a joint blog post from OCTAE and OSERS.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) invite you to submit comments and recommendations to help us implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed by President Obama on July 22. This new law seeks to maximize opportunities for youth and adults, with and without disabilities, to succeed in postsecondary education and in high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs in the 21st century economy. Specifically, we seek your comments to assist us as we begin the process of implementing the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that were made by Title IV of WIOA and of the new version of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), in Title II of WIOA.

Your input can help us identify issues and concerns that we need to address in order to fulfill the expectations of WIOA, particularly as we develop draft regulations for public comment. While OSERS and OCTAE encourage you to respond to the specific questions that are set out below, we also encourage you to identify other issues that you believe are significant, and to provide your recommendations on how we should address them.

Please submit comments below by Friday, August 29, 2014. Submitting comments is voluntary and subject to ED blog comment policies.

OSERS is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance for implementing performance measures in section 116 of WIOA with regard to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program?
  2. In light of the new provisions in the Rehabilitation Act regarding competitive integrated employment in high-demand fields, what revisions should be made, if any, to the regulations related to the definition of employment outcome?
  3. What should OSERS consider in developing regulation or guidance related to transition services for students with disabilities, particularly the new provisions in section 113 of the Rehabilitation Act related to pre-employment transition services and transition services to groups in section 103(b) of the Rehabilitation Act?
  4. Section 109 of the Rehabilitation Act made significant changes regarding the provision of services to employers, including the requirement for performance measures related to the effectiveness of services to employers. How can OSERS best implement these new provisions?
  5. Subtitle G of WIOA made significant changes to the Rehabilitation Act related to supported employment. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on the new requirements specifically related to the provision of supported employment to youth with most significant disabilities?

OCTAE is particularly interested in comments on any or all of the following questions:

  1. In issuing definitions of performance indicators under Section 116, what should be considered in regulation or guidance when applying these indicators to adult education participants? How can the use of “measurable skill gain” best support services to low-skilled and limited English proficient individuals?

  2. WIOA emphasizes the importance of connecting job seekers and workers with the needs of employers and the regional economy. States will be required to report on their effectiveness in serving employers. What factors should OCTAE consider when defining how adult education and literacy programs may effectively serve employers?
  3. WIOA requires states to implement adult education content standards that are aligned to their standards under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. What are the timeline and implementation issues that should be considered in supporting this requirement?

  4. AEFLA adds new activities to adult education and literacy services, including integrated education and training and workforce preparation. What should be considered in regulation or guidance on these new activities?

The comment period has ended.

Upskilling in Order to be Ready to Work

Providing access to foundation skills for the 24 million working Americans who have low skills is acknowledged as a cornerstone in the Vice President’s Ready to Work report, issued on July 22, 2014. Jeffery Zients, Director of the National Economic Council, and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, co-authored a blog highlighting the importance of on ramps, career pathways, and on the job training for this population. The article is posted on the White House site and ED’s Homeroom site.

The recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act along with the executive actions in the Vice President’s report include significant changes and lay the foundation for the transformation of adult learning in our country.

Please see the article and share it through your networks to raise awareness and urgency of the importance of ensuring all Americans are ready to work.

President Obama Signs Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Into Law

On July 22, President Barack Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. The signing ceremony was a showcase for the importance of national workforce education and development to economic recovery. It included the release of Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity, a federal-wide effort to ensure “that federally funded training programs are singularly focused on getting more Americans ready to work with marketable skills.”

WIOA will become effective on July 1, 2015, the first full program year (PY) after its enactment.  However, the act includes several provisions that become effective on other dates.  For example, Governors must submit Unified State Plans pertaining to workforce investment programs, adult education and vocational rehabilitation to the Secretary of Labor on March 1, 2016. In addition, the WIA performance accountability section remains in effect for PY 2015, with the new WIOA performance accountability provisions taking effect at the start of PY 2016 on July 1, 2016.

Following the signing, both the departments of Labor and Education announced WIOA implementation resources and outreach efforts to their stakeholders. Bookmark the OCTAE WIOA Reauthorization website of resources for information on the act and links to the resource websites of the department of Labor and vocational rehabilitation.