Making People the Priority: Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

Date: January 28, 2016
Author(s): Naomi Takahashi

By 2022, researchers predict that employers in the United States will have 11 million job openings going unfilled because the positions have skill requirements that are too high for job seekers’ actual training and qualifications. Because of this impending mismatch between people’s training and employers’ job openings, federal legislators restructured the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), creating the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which President Obama signed into law July 2014. WIOA is the first update to the nation’s core workforce training programs since the Workforce Investment Act in 1998. The objective of WIOA is to update WIA to better meet the needs of the current economic climate and to be more individualized based on geographic location/need. While in no way perfect, WIOA is a clear improvement over its predecessor. It builds on 16 years of learning and knowledge and will possibly provide better opportunities for workers to build new skills for the new economy.

 On first glance, WIOA appears to have provisions that will increase focus on and better serve the workers with the most barriers as they are given “priority of service” under the reauthorization. Although these new stipulations will clearly service people who are low- and middle-income workers, it is unclear without funding for additional supportive services how the lowest-income families and those struggling to meet their basic needs will benefit from WIOA to be able to find employment that pays a livable wage. This brief provides an analysis on WIOA and the impact the act will have on the lowest-income families in our communities.