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January/February 2020



The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was signed into law in July 2014, replacing the 1998 Workforce Investment Act. Its mandate is to help job seekers and employers find one another—that is, in the language of the U.S. Department of Labor, to “match employers with the skilled workforce they need to compete in the global economy.”

WIOA aims to do this by helping establish local workforce development boards and job centers across the country, both of which will provide training opportunities and employment counseling for workers. WIOA is authorized to run through the end of 2020 and is intended to be “demand-driven,” with employment and training geared to the needs of local employers. The workforce development boards are accordingly mostly staffed by volunteer representatives from area businesses.

WIOA draws on several considerations aside from local needs. It is intended to provide priority to low-income and low-skilled individuals, but at the same time to provide training and job opportunities for young people and those with disabilities. It includes a literacy-training component, effected mostly by grants to individual states, so that job seekers can become literate in English and have other basic skills sufficient to the needs of the market. The law also meant to give priority to veterans and their eligible spouses—and, mixing in the other criteria, gives foremost priority to veterans and eligible spouses who receive public assistance, ranking those who do not in third place.

The formula excludes military pay in determining eligibility. It does consider spouses, as mentioned earlier, if they are unemployed or underemployed or family income is otherwise significantly affected by a military spouse’s deployment, death, or disability.

Given these competing constituencies, the WIOA has met with mixed success. In December 2019, DOL accordingly announced a competition with a $1 million prize “aimed at developing a new tool to help transitioning service members of the military in their job searches,” in the words of its press release. The competition closed January 24.

© Travis King





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