WIOA Provides Opportunity for Partnership to Serve Out of School Youth

This blog is cross-posted from the WorkforceGPS site, see https://youth.workforcegps.org/blog/general/2017/01/18/15/08/EdLaborPartnership.  

WIOA places heightened emphasis on the alignment of programs that serve out-of-school youth in order to ensure they obtain the skills necessary to prepare for successful workforce participation and continued educational achievement.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law on July 22, 2014, presents a unique opportunity for collaboration among the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Department of Education (ED), States, local workforce development areas, other workforce and education partners, as well as social service providers, in order to improve the lives of our nation’s out-of-school youth (OSY).  WIOA places heightened emphasis on the alignment of programs that serve out-of-school youth in order to ensure they obtain the skills necessary to prepare for successful workforce participation and continued educational achievement.

For many years, the adult education program, administered by ED and authorized under title II of WIOA, has reconnected older OSY with the educational system and equipped them with the foundational skills to pursue postsecondary education, training, and meaningful work.  The formula youth program, administered by DOL and authorized under title I of WIOA, requires that 75 percent of funds be used on services for OSY, which will assist young adults in obtaining the necessary skills, including high school diplomas, to prepare for and complete postsecondary education and training and achieve high levels of career readiness.  More than 5.5 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 without a high school diploma or an equivalent are neither in school nor employed.  By working together, State and local workforce and education partners can maximize the potential of these young adults through implementing evidence-based practices to support the successful achievement of their educational and career goals.

To facilitate these efforts, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education (Departments) are releasing a technical assistance document that:

  • provide strategies and examples of State and local partnerships that facilitate the reengagement of OSY;
  • support communities working with in-school youth in accordance with WIOA; and
  • address strategies for serving out-of-school English learners, current and former foster youth, and justice-involved youth.

Along with the technical assistance on OSY, additional documents may be distributed among all potential partners that serve youth and young adults.  The technical assistance documents are available:

The technical assistance provided in these documents offers a number of examples of ways in which different partners can work together to build career pathways that are a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training, and support services that align with local skill needs and prepare youth and young adults to be successful in secondary or postsecondary education programs and the labor market.

Ultimately, long-term success for OSY will require engagement beyond the scope of workforce and education agencies.  It takes the engagement of entire communities to catalyze change and create multiple pathways to facilitate education, career, and lifelong success.  These discussions, therefore, must include businesses, colleges and universities, State and district superintendents, teachers and other youth service providers, community-based organizations, local social service agencies, and families and youth themselves.

We hope this technical assistance series will support creative and impactful youth-focused strategies and be a resource in engaging these diverse partners in this important work.  Together we will strengthen our nation’s workforce by supporting the nation’s youth in graduating from secondary and postsecondary education programs, participating successfully in career pathways, and achieving their career goals.

Why Are We Not Giving Women a Second Chance?

Are women in the United States more dangerous and prone to criminal activity than those in other countries?  Looking solely at criminal justice statistics, one may tend to believe this idea.  While incarceration rates for women have reached historic highs, women in this country are no more likely to be a threat to our society as they would be in any other country.  Why, then, has the U.S. disproportionately put women behind bars?

Decades of questionable criminal justice policies in our country have created a culture of over incarceration that is unmatched by any other nation.  We need to pay more attention to the plight of incarcerated women in order to ensure they are offered the same educational and workforce opportunities as men. The Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) recently conducted a survey of the competency levels of incarcerated adults. Amongst the data, they found that 85 percent of incarcerated women did not complete any form of education beyond a high school diploma or GED while incarcerated.[1]  Today’s economy is increasingly demanding and it is important that everyone is prepared to compete in it.  It is estimated that as early as 2018, nearly two-thirds of all job announcement will require applicants to have achieved some level of postsecondary education. [2]  We as a society cannot afford to continue to incarcerate our mothers, sisters, and daughters without giving them the proper resources for a second chance.

While only 5 percent of the world’s population of women live in the U.S., our country is home to almost 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women (twice the percentage as China and four times as much as Russia).[3]  In fact, the top 44 jurisdictions of incarcerated women in the world are composed of individual U.S. states (with the exception of the U.S. as a whole and Thailand).[4]  Women represent the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population with an incarceration rate that is double that of men in the past 30 years.[5]  From 1980 to 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent, from 26,378 in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014.[6]

This skyrocketing number of incarcerated women is clearly a problem. So how did we get here? While there is no single reason for this spike, however, the war on drugs is one possible explanation for the increase.  A zero tolerance anti-drug campaign combined with the adoption of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for drug offenses played a role in contributing to increased incarceration rates.  Women today are twice as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as they were in 1986 and almost twice as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as men.[7]

Increased contact with the justice system is not just a problem for adult women. The largest percentage of incarcerated girls are incarcerated due to status offenses (crimes that would not otherwise be classified as a crime for adults such as skipping school and running away) and technical violations.[8]  Entering the justice system at this young age may create a dangerous cycle of incarceration that is difficult to escape. This cycle can be exacerbated if proper intervention and support is not provided.

While this over-incarceration presents a serious problem for our country, a tremendous opportunity is also ahead of us.  Criminal justice reform is a topic that has sparked a bipartisan interest.   In 2014 and 2015 alone, 46 states enacted 201 bills, executive orders, and ballot propositions to reform some aspect of their criminal justice system.[9] While this is encouraging, it is important to point out that while the rates and population of incarcerated women have significantly increased, women represent only 7 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population today.[10]  It may be easy for a jurisdiction to overlook the alarming trends of incarcerated women if they look at their population in the aggregate.  As criminal justice reform continues, it is important that we take into account the unique challenges facing women when we design policies and interventions to enact these reforms.

Daniel Gaytan

Guest Blogger: Daniel Gaytan
Policy Analyst
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

Providing incarcerated women with the same educational and workforce resources that are currently available to men is an important and easy first step to reduce their chances of recidivating.  It is up to each of us in our communities, counties, and states to ensure that we are providing men and women the opportunity for successful reentry.  We know that incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education are 43 percent less likely to recidivate and 58 percent more likely to find post-release employment than individuals who do not participate.[11]  It is time women are given equal access to these programs. 

[1] Rampey, B.D., Keiper, S., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Li, J., Thornton, N., and Hogan, J. (2016). Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training: Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies: 2014 (NCES 2016-040). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.  https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2016040.

[2] Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018 (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2010).

[3] Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon. Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System: Policy Strategies and Program Options (Civic Research Institute, 2006, 2011). https://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/.

[4] Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon.

[5] American Civil Liberties Union.  Facts about the Over-Incarceration of Women in the United States.   https://www.aclu.org/other/facts-about-over-incarceration-women-united-states 

[6] Carson, E.A. (2015). Prisoners in 2014. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

[7] Carson, E.A.

[8] Sickmund, M., Sladky, M., Kang, T.J., and Puzzanchera, C. (2015). Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

[9] Rebecca Silber, Ram Subramanian, and Maia Spotts. Justice in Review: New Trends in State Sentencing and Corrections 2014-2015. New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2016.

[10] Rampey, B.D., Keiper, S., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Li, J., Thornton, N., and Hogan, J.

[11] Davis, Lois M., Jennifer L. Steele, Robert Bozick, Malcolm Williams, Susan Turner, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Jessica Saunders and Paul S. Steinberg. How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2014. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR564.html, 15.

Responding to the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults

It is an unfortunate truth that our country incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation.  There are an estimated 2.2 million people incarcerated across the United States, compared to 500,000 just 30 years ago. The vast majority of incarcerated individuals will eventually leave prison and jail and reenter our society.  Becoming productive members of society, is just another challenge for a formerly incarcerated person to overcome in an increasingly competitive economy.  Today’s job market requires more advanced skills and industry recognized credentials than ever before. While no single solution may exist to assist justice involved individuals with reentry, correctional education has proven to be an effective tool.  In addition to helping individuals gain the skills they need for reentry, evidence suggests participating in correctional education programs decrease their chances of recidivating by 43%.[1]

On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), released a report, Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training: Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2014, assessing the skills, education and training of our incarcerated population.  This report provides us with fresh data on the current state of literacy and numeracy competencies of incarcerated adults in state and federal prisons in the U.S.  The data demonstrates the continued need to nurture rigorous and effective correctional education programs not only as a means for individuals to improve their situation, but also as an effective public safety measure.

Read Secretary King’s Dear Colleague letter to learn more about the report, and to find out about other measures ED is taking to ensure incarcerated and justice-involved individuals have a fair shot at a successful reentry.

[1] Davis, L. M., Bozick, R., Steele, J.L., Saunders, J. & Miles, J. N. V. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A MetaAnalysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2013. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR266.html

Improved Reentry Education Grantee Recognized by the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council

The Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) is an industry-led, training, assessment and certification system. Their mission is focused on advancing the core skills and knowledge needed by the nation’s front-line production and material handling workers to allow workers the opportunity to demonstrate that they have acquired the skills needed for technology intensive jobs. MSSC recently highlighted work being done to help incarcerated individuals who are returning to their communities secure jobs, increase public safety, and save money.

OCTAE is pleased that one of the Improved Reentry Education grantees, Washburn Institute of Technology, was highlighted as an organization which features a MSSC pre-release program. The program allows students to obtain a Certified Production Technician credential, thanks to a partnership between Washburn University, the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Kansas Department of Corrections, and the Kansas Workforce Center. These programs help individuals acquire certifications and credentials, allowing them to succeed in the labor market and break the cycle of incarceration.

An important part of this programming is tracking student outcomes to help ascertain success, and the Washburn students excelled in the program. Of 184 students who participated in the program, almost 1,000 credentials were earned, including over 500 full Certified Production Technician credentials.  Since March 31, 2016, 70 students had been released, with 60% of them obtaining gainful employment after reentering, and only 12% of students re-incarcerated.

Learn more in the following linked resources:

OCTAE’s Office of Correctional Education

The Reentry Education Toolkit, designed to help programs and communities improve services for returning citizens

A Community Practice for Correctional Educators, with over 700 participating members

Nondegree Credentials in Correctional Education: Status, Challenges, and Benefits (Department of Education, 2016)

Improved Reentry Education Grantee Recognized as a Model Program

On any given day, more than 60,000 young people under age 21 are confined in juvenile justice facilities throughout the United States.[1]

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recently released a multi-jurisdiction scan, identifying programs which address the developmental needs of young adults in the criminal justice system. NIJ  is the research, development, and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. Their mission is to advance scientific research, development, and evaluation to enhance the administration of justice and public safety.

OCTAE is pleased that one of the Improved Reentry Education grantees, UTEC, was highlighted as an organization which took an innovative approach to address these developmental needs of youth. NIJ describes the UTEC program as one that “has responded to a need in the community and the population served by developing in-house social enterprises in order to offer its participants a paid work experience in a supportive setting”. As part of their approach, UTEC conducts pre-release visits to individuals in correctional and juvenile justice facilities and also uses street outreach and gang peacemaking to connect with individuals. As youth progress through the program, they are paired with case management with a focus towards social enterprises and a resumption of education in the community.

Photo of Sean Addie

Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education, OCTAE

Guest Blogger, Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education, OCTAE

[1] National Report Series Bulletin (Aug. 2014). Juveniles in Residential Placement, 2011. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Janet Terry: A Workforce Development Success Story

Watch this video with U.S. Secretary of Education John King and U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez highlighting a success story resulting from local, state, and federal agencies collaborating under one roof. Janet’s story is an inspirational example of how adults can benefit from coordinated workforce development services.

Image of Janet Terry, smiling, with the Pittsburg waterfront in the background

Janet Terry, winner of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Achievement Award for the Outstanding Senior Community Service Employment Program Participant.

Read the full story posted by our partners in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Partnerships Advance Correctional and Reentry Education

The U.S. Department of Justice, in conjunction with other federal agencies, just concluded National Reentry Week.  This was a cross-agency effort geared towards collaboration around helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals reenter and reintegrate with society. Reentry Week highlights included a proposed rule by the Office of Personnel Management to “ban the box” in federal hiring and a roadmap to reentry released by the Bureau of Prisons to assist federal inmates with reentry, guided by evidence based practices and principles.

Federal efforts to support reentry are not just limited to one week out of the year. One of the hallmarks of the Obama administration has been cross-agency collaboration to address collateral consequences of justice involvement. The Federal Interagency Reentry Council, the Improved Reentry Education and Promoting Reentry Success Through the Continuity of Educational Opportunities grant programs, and joint Department of Justice and Department of Education guidance around correctional education are just a few examples of successful, meaningful, and impactful collaborations.

Beyond the Box image of Checkbox

Image from Beyond the Box resource guide

The Department of Education has also released a “Beyond the Box” resource guide and Dear Colleague Letter encouraging postsecondary institutions to assess whether criminal justice information is necessary to make an informed admission decision and highlight the importance of supporting all students, including those who have been incarcerated or come in contact with the justice system, toward postsecondary completion upon admittance. This new guide marks a continuation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to mitigating unnecessary collateral impacts of incarceration and helping colleges and universities to design admissions policies that attract a diverse and qualified student body without creating unnecessary barriers for prospective students who have been involved with the justice system.

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Improving Reentry Outcomes Through Social Innovation

The Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency focused on improving lives, strengthening communities, and fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering, recently announced the recipients of their Social Innovation Fund. OCTAE is pleased that one of the Improved Reentry Education program grantees, UTEC, Inc., has been selected as a subgrantee of the Social Innovation Fund program in two specific portfolio areas.

UTEC has an opportunity to partner with two national organizations that are Social Innovation Fund intermediaries.  REDF specifically invests in mission-driven businesses that hire and assist people willing and able to work, but who face multiple barriers to employment.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP) initiative aims to increase educational and employment opportunities for youth ages 14 to 25 who are involved in the justice system or have other significant barriers to success.  This work closely aligns with the existing Improved Reentry Education program, which seeks to demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services—provided in institutional and community settings—are critical in supporting educational attainment and reentry success for previously incarcerated individuals.

This work also aligns with broader federal priorities for criminal justice reform. The Obama Administration has consistently taken steps to make the criminal justice system fairer and more effective and to address the vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration that traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities.  This includes a series of concrete actions to reduce the challenges and barriers that the formerly incarcerated confront, including through the work of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a cabinet-level working group to support the federal government’s efforts to promote public safety and economic opportunity through purposeful cross-agency coordination and collaboration.

This post is created by Guest Blogger, Sean Addie, Director of Correctional Education in OCTAE. Photo of Sean Addie

Reentry Education Framework Report and Toolkit Launched

The logo of the Reentry Education Toolkit contains Icons of a gear, a handshake, a book with a computer mouse, a correctional institution, and a stylized process icon.

The logo and icons of the Reentry Education Toolkit.

OCTAE is pleased to announce the release of the Reentry Education Framework which is designed to help reentry education providers create a seamless path for their students, by connecting education services offered in correctional facilities with those in the community.

The Framework highlights five critical components of an effective reentry system: program infrastructure, strategic partnerships, education services, transition processes, and sustainability. Each component can be tailored to the specific context and needs of the education provider, its partners, and the target population.

To learn more about the Framework and access implementation tools, please visit:

  • An online tool kit that provides guidelines, tools, and resources for each framework component.
  • The Reentry Education Framework report that includes lessons learned and examples from three reentry education programs.
  • A short video that describes the Framework and tool kit.
  • A report and video on the current use of advanced technologies in corrections.

Improved Reentry Education Grantees

OCTAE is proud to be involved in one of the President’s signature efforts: criminal justice reform. A Presidential weekly radio address on October 31, 2015 signaled new attention to this issue and an event in Newark, NJ on November 2, 2015 laid out the many reform efforts being undertaken by federal, state, and local governments and private enterprise. See the fact sheet released with that event.

OCTAE’s Improved Reentry Education (IRE) program, announced in the White House fact sheet, builds upon the success and lessons learned from OCTAE’s previous investment, Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities (PRSCEO) program. PRESCO aimed to address the chronic issue of underemployment for ex-offenders; provide a more constructive use of time for those under community supervision; and, create an education continuum for bridging the gap between prison and community-based education and training programs. The purpose of the IRE program is to support demonstration projects in prisoner reentry education that develop evidence of reentry education’s effectiveness. IRE seeks to demonstrate that high-quality, appropriately designed, integrated, and well-implemented educational and related services—provided in institutional and community settings—are critical in supporting educational attainment and reentry success for previously incarcerated individuals. IRE applicants were instructed to develop their own models or incorporate the revised Reentry Education Model into their project plans.

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