Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program was enacted in 2015 to help Americans facing employment barriers due to disabilities or other factors.

Additionally, a WIOA grant enables employers and other institutions to fund employment services such as job centers to better train and hire skilled employees. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act transformed the way employment services had been offered to some populations. As a program, WIOA establishes resources and training services that assess the readiness of potential employees and place them in suitable positions, if any are available.

Because the program addresses specific populations, some eligibility criteria may restrict some applicants from receiving services. However, after completing a WIOA application, applicants may get enrolled in various types of training and have access to countless employment resources. In the following sections, you can find information about the WIOA and whether you may qualify for benefits or not. Additionally, you can discover the types of programs WIOA authorizes including the WIOA youth program and similar programs for adults and dislocated workers.

What is WIOA?

The WIOA program is designed to assist job-seekers, workers and employers throughout the U.S. The act replaced previous workforce investment acts and implemented employment, education, training, and support services to help specific populations via programs such as the following:

  • Job Corps
  • YouthBuild
  • Indian and Native American programs
  • Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs

States manage their own WIOA program with support from the federal government. Each state, along with its Workforce Development Board (WDB), submits four-year plans for educating, preparing and maintaining a skilled workforce while meeting their economic needs. States may enlist other assistance programs including TANF to aid in the execution of WIOA. The main purposes of WIOA are listed below:

  • To improve the accessibility of the American Job Center (AJC) system. By providing better customer service, more accurate job reporting systems and clearer certifying criteria for each location, AJCs can help more workers throughout the country. All AJCs offer complimentary employment-related assistance and advice to any qualified resident who requests it.
  • To increase the number of skilled workers available. Workforce services within the Adult programs prioritize low-income workers and workers with limited employable skills to ensure they can find employment. All workers who qualify for WIOA training can be referred to various training and education resources outside of the states’ programs.
  • To promote high-quality training. Worked-based training programs are encouraged, and hiring employers are more quickly directed to qualified employees. The WIOA program is job-driven, meaning that employers are matched with the appropriate employees rather than the reverse. This operating system also promotes economic growth and expansion.
  • To target vulnerable populations. Workers with disabilities, Native American populations and younger workers (i.e., young adults and at-risk youth 14 to 24 years of age) may receive specialized training and career opportunities including work experiences like internships and seasonal positions. Veterans and ex-offenders hoping to reenter the workforce may also benefit from WIOA in their state of residence.
  • To enhance employment services. WIOA regulations allow states to fund various employment services focused on job search, job readiness, career planning and barrier removal. These programs help three types of workers: dislocated workers, adults and youth.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Health and Human Services all help regulate and implement the program in each state, and the organizations administer other employment-related programs that the WIOA authorizes.

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Note: WIOA is not an entitlement program. Instead, it is a grant awarded by the federal government to states that helps fund existing employment services and resources to bolster the economy and workforce.

Benefits of the WIOA Program

WIOA program benefits millions of workers nationwide and reports important employment training and education results to increase the public data available to workers and employers. Additionally, program creates more opportunities for all workers. For example, workers with disabilities have more access to resources adhered to their needs in the workforce, and dislocated workers can be connected to long-term employment. The following list of benefits may be available to workers covered under WIOA:

  • Pre-employment transition services
  • Increased access to treatment centers and work-based training
  • Coordination between employers and rehabilitation agencies
  • Tuition assistance based on need
  • Job search assistance
  • Career planning and decision-making help
  • Career assessment testing opportunities
  • Labor market information (e.g., demand for jobs, average wages and required skills)

Because WIOA grants are able to be adapted to specific areas, economic growth is promoted. However, the program also benefit other individuals in the following ways:

  • Employers can be directed to qualified employees and develop flexible on-the-job training, competitive employee benefits and other necessary services to their employees under WIOA.
  • HR departments. Employment resources become more readily available to employees and employers who require them because of WIOA, making HR centers more efficient and united.

Employers may benefit from some services provided by WIOA including referrals to local training programs for their employees, screening and assessment services for applicants, access to sample job applications and ads and help in creating internship or apprenticeship programs.

How to Apply for WIOA

The WIOA application involves meeting eligibility criteria, completing the appropriate form for the service for which you are applying and sustaining your eligibility for WIOA services by participating in required employment events, transition services and training. WIOA law has been helping about 20 million youth and adult workers each year. The eligibility criteria for WIOA varies for each state and program, but many applicants must be 14 years old or older and be facing significant barriers to employment such as the following to qualify for benefits:

  • Lacking in basic skills
  • Homeless
  • Restored citizens
  • Low income
  • Runaway children
  • Foster child
  • Pregnant or currently parenting
  • English language learner
  • Physical or mental impairment

Unemployed workers may need to prove that they have lost their position due to no fault of their own, and the WIOA grant in your state may impose income restrictions to ensure low-income employees are helped. Typically, you must also be registered to work in the state in which you are applying and schedule a qualifying interview to be considered for WIOA.

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