Update on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided an update on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) via webinar titled “WIOA Vision Webinar.” Various representatives from the Departments provided updates and resources intended to assist stakeholders move toward WIOA implementation. Presenters stressed the need for stakeholders to begin strengthening and building partnerships necessary for creation and execution of the state unified plans due in March of 2016. For more information and resources on WIOA, visit the Workforce3 One website.

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), held its first meeting January 22-23 in Washington, DC. Several panels of experts discussed various aspects of competitive integrated employment, and public testimony was provided. The panelists’ presentations and the public testimony are now available online. The next WIOA Advisory Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 23-24 in Washington, DC.

Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities Meeting Held

Last week, the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, which was mandated by Section 609 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, held its first meeting. David Mank, PhD, was elected to chair the committee. The Committee is an excellent opportunity to bring together stakeholders to recommend programs and policies to increase competitive integrated employment for people with I/DD. To access the Committee Charter, meeting agenda, testimony, meeting minutes, and other updates, visit the ODEP website.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Advisory Committee Named

Last week, the Department of Labor announced the members of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, which was mandated by Section 609 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act signed into law last year. David Mank, PhD, member of the Policy and Positions committee of The Arc of the US, was appointed as one of the 17 committee members. Dr. Mank, professor in the School of Education at Indiana University, serves as the director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana’s university center for excellence for developmental disabilities. Dr. Mank is an expert in education and employment of people with I/DD and was a recipient of the Franklin Smith Award for National Distinguished Service from The Arc of the United States. The first meeting of the Committee will be held later this month.

Upcoming Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Regulations

According to a recent Q&A document on the Department of Labor’s website, the Departments of Labor and Education plan to concurrently publish five Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) to implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in the spring of 2015, and anticipate issuing Final Rules in early 2016. Because many provisions of WIOA go into effect July 1, 2015, operating guidance and technical assistance will be issued in the spring of 2015 to support implementation. Once issued, these materials can be accessed at www.doleta.gov/WIOA.

Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity

The day that President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law, Vice President Joe Biden released his report, “Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity.” During his January 28th State of the Union Address, President Obama called up on Vice President Biden to ‘to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: Train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.” Highlights related to people with disabilities include:

  • Disability Employment Initiative: According to the report, “This fall, grants will be awarded to expand the capacity of American Job Centers to improve employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities (including those with significant disabilities) by increasing the participation of this population in existing career pathways programs that provide a full education and training programs along with supportive services.”
  • Pathways to Careers for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities: “This fall, grants will be awarded “to develop, test, and evaluate new integrated education and career training strategies to help ensure that youth and young adults with disabilities acquire the skills, degrees, and credentials needed for high-wage, high-skill employment.”
  • A cross-agency group, including DOL, ED, DOJ, HHS VA, SSA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, National Council on Disability, and Office of Personnel Management will “…help people with disabilities prepare to qualify for the array of jobs offered by federal contractors; connect federal contractors with jobs to qualified job seekers with disabilities; and provide federal contractors with the tools and resources they need to recruit, retain and promote people with disabilities.”

Workforce System Guidance Issued

A Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL, No. 3-14) to stakeholders issued July 30, 2014, communicated the vision for an integrated, effective, job-driven workforce system. Seven job-driven elements, which President Obama directed all Federal Departments and Agencies to integrate and will drive DOL’s implementation of WIOA, were discussed. Workforce system leaders and partners are encouraged to use resources and incorporate elements into strategic planning, operations, and collaborations.

President Obama Signs Legislation Updating Critical Workforce Programs

The Arc is pleased that President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law last week. This bipartisan and bicameral law reauthorizes and updates existing federal workforce development programs including the Rehabilitation Act, which provides for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services for people with disabilities. WIOA focuses VR outcomes on competitive, integrated employment as well as promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities by emphasizing coordination between VR and other agencies, extending the initial time period for VR supported employment services from 18 to 24 months, and modifying eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.

Bipartisan Legislation to Update Critical Workforce Programs on Its Way to the President

Last Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), by a bipartisan vote of 415-6.

WIOA is a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee last July. The bill was developed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX).

WIOA, which now heads to the President for signature, reauthorizes and updates existing federal workforce development programs, including the Rehabilitation Act which provides for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services for people with disabilities. WIOA focuses VR outcomes on competitive, integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities through emphasis on coordination between VR and other agencies including school systems, extending the initial time period for VR supported employment services (from 18 to 24 months), and modification of eligibility determination to promote access to VR by people with the most significant disabilities.

Over the last few years, reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act has been a top priority for The Arc’s public policy agenda. The Arc advocated for many improvements to the system now incorporated under WIOA. These improvements are consistent with its past and current position statements on Employment. Additionally, The Arc joined with other national disability groups to express strong support for WIOA.

The Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation Seeking To Update Critical Workforce Programs

On June 25, the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), by a bipartisan vote of 95 to 3. Amendments proposed by Senator Flake (R-AZ) and Senator Lee (R-UT) failed to be adopted.  The bill, which now heads to the House of Representatives for approval, would reauthorize and update existing federal workforce development programs, including the Rehabilitation Act which provides for vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. Specifically, WIOA focuses vocational rehabilitation outcomes on competitive, integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for youth with disabilities.

WIOA represents a compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in July of 2013. The proposal was developed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX). The Arc supports this bipartisan, bicameral legislation.