Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Would Wonk 500 Miles (Just to Share the WIOA State Plan with You)

Today’s blog will focus on the youth-specific provisions of the State Plan. We hope to be a resource as you develop your feedback and recommendations before the Plan is finalized and sent to DOL. For details on how to engage in State Plan Public Engagement, skip to the end!

Two weeks ago, Mayor Bowser and her workforce team released their draft of the District’s WIOA State Plan for comments before the Plan is sent to the Department of Labor (DOL) for approval by April 1st. Beyond demonstrating the District’s plans to comply with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to the Feds, the State Plan also sets the course to better align workforce stakeholders and programs to create a comprehensive system of workforce development.

In and of itself, WIOA established some significant changes for Title I Youth stakeholders, including:
  • Requires that at least 75% of youth formula funds are spent on serving out-of-school youth (up from 30% under WIA, though the District had been spending about 65% of funding on out-of school youth as of 2014[1])
  • Expands in-school youth eligibility to include low-income youth (14-21) who are English language learners and those who have a disability.
  • Requires that at least 20% of youth formula funds be spent on paid and unpaid work experiences that incorporate academic and occupational education.

Taking into account these new requirements and acknowledging the challenges of the past, the DC WIOA State Plan sets out 5 major goals: System Alignment, Expanding Access to Workforce and Education Services, Alignment with Business Needs, Performance and Accountability, and Supporting Our Youth.

I.   Youth Goals and Strategies[2]:

Goal - Serving Our Youth: Youth have access to a coordinated, accessible education and workforce system that provides the supports needed to prepare them for postsecondary success; including education, training, and competitive employment.

5.1 - Ensure developmentally appropriate access and services for youth to DC's one stop system.
5.2. - Provide youth access to supportive services like transportation, child care, housing, behavioral health services, and income supports so they can take full advantage of education and training programs.
5.3 - Leverage technology to engage youth and youth-serving partners to provide information and access to education, training, credentialing, and employment. 
5.4 - Increase opportunities for work-based learning and career exploration, including through the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
5.5 - Focus on facilitating seamless transitions between and within secondary and postsecondary education, training and employment.
5.6 - Maintain the focused attention and resources on engaging disconnected youth (youth 16 to 24 who are neither in-school nor employed).

II.   Key Operational Elements for Youth Stakeholders

One-Stop Access for Youth: The State Plan includes a proposal to create a youth appropriate one-stop center that focuses on referral services for youth seeking employment. This would happen in collaboration with the DC Re-engagement Center (DC REC), suggesting that agencies would work together to avoid the duplication of services or replication of funding/infrastructure[3]. (Strategy 5.1)

Access to Supportive Services: The State Plan outlines a new, cross-agency assessment to identify each young person’s individual barriers to successfully completing education, training and employment. WIOA funds will support barrier removal efforts for youth while in the program, but some locally-funded supports and procedures will help ensure extended barrier removal for District youth[4].  (Strategy 5.2)

Engage Youth through Technology: This section highlights the District’s efforts to modify its Virtual One-Stop (VOS) interface to be more youth-friendly, and efforts to pilot a digital badging program for SYEP youth[5]. The DC REC’s Virtual Platform will be developed to eventually include employment resources in addition to educational options [6]. The District is also planning to develop a searchable ‘Scorecard for Training Providers, Service Providers and Employers’ to help residents make decisions about what providers meet their needs[7]. Included in the development of this Scorecard will be a standardized tool for assessing the quality of the District’s workforce programming. (Strategy 5.3)

Work-Based Learning and Career Exploration: Given WIOA’s requirement that 20% of youth formula funds be spent on work-based learning, all WIOA youth will have access to year-round and/or summer paid and unpaid work placements/internships, on-the-job training opportunities, job shadowing, earn-and-learn opportunities, pre-apprenticeship programs, or apprenticeship programs. (Strategy 5.4)

Student Transitions: DOES and OSSE will align work experiences offered through their programs to industries identified within the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs of Study. DOES, OSSE, and RSA will work to link the transition goals of students with an IEP with year-round and summer experiences. Within SYEP, DOES will work to identify educationally disengaged youth and refer them to the DC REC. Additionally, all WIOA core partners will require that students in the WIOA in-school program and DC REC clients approaching the completion of their secondary education have support in creating a transition plan to reach their postsecondary goals. (Strategy 5.5)

Engaging Disconnected Youth: Beyond the increased portion of funding that will flow to the WIOA out-of-school programs, the State Plan also highlights the Career Connections program as a locally-funded program that will provide disconnected youth ages 20-24 with paid work experiences for 9 months, no-cost training through UDC-CC, and supportive services to eliminate barriers to employment. (Section 5.6)

III.   What does this mean for youth workforce programs?

By and large, the WIOA State Plan provides an outline of how the District plans to align services and create seamless pathways to meaningful employment and economic security, especially for the District’s most vulnerable populations. But as we all know, much of the success of the State Plan will rely on how well it is implemented: the devil will truly be in the details.

We encourage you to engage in the public comment period of the State Plan (ending March 12th) to ensure that the plan reflects the needs of the youth you serve. Here are some opportunities:
  • DCAYA Community Meeting on the WIOA State Plan on March 2nd (register here!)
  • Advocacy Public Engagement Session hosted by the Deputy Mayor of Greater Economic Opportunity on March 9th (details).
  • To comment directly on the State Plan, visit the interactive draft here.

[1] According to DOES’s 2015 Performance Oversight Responses. Funding levels were significantly skewed in Program Year 2015 as both in school and out-of-school programs were halted by the WIC and DOES.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.

Coming Soon: Be on the lookout for an expanded briefing on the youth-specific provisions of the State Plan! Please reach out to Amy Dudas ( with any questions, concerns, or comments on the State Plan—if we can’t address them, we can find someone who can!

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