WIOA Reauthorization: Reaching Target Youth Populations
What is the WIOA Youth Program?
Under Title I of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, funding is allocated for states to provide services to assist youth with one or more barriers to employment. The goal is to help at-risk youth successfully connect with employment, post-secondary education and/or skills training credentials.
Failing to Reach Three Target Populations
Youth in foster care, youth experiencing homelessness, and youth involved with the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems are identified in the WIOA statute as priority populations. However, despite the fact the law makes these youth eligible, they only comprise a fifth of those receiving services. They are prioritized on paper, but not in practice. Only about 2-3% of eligible current and former foster youth are currently receiving services, for instance.
Proposed Innovations As Part of WIOA Reauthorization:
- Require that workforce development boards establish a workforce liaison assigned to conduct outreach to foster, homeless and juvenile justice-involved youth and to help these youth navigate any barriers to accessing programming; make this a mandatory requirement in order to receive WIOA funds.
- Increase percentage of “in school” youth receiving services, in order to leverage their existing connections and increase their chance of success. The prior formula was 50/50 of in-school and out of school, which seems fair. The current formula requires at least 75% of WIOA funds to be spent on out of school youth. Young people seeking help with connecting with the workforce are literally being told to, “Come back when you drop out of school.” The current formula accidentally promotes disconnection from educational resources, and increases the likelihood that foster, homeless and juvenile-justice involved youth who are currently IN school will be NOT able to access supports in their area.
- Encourage services to start at age 14, rather than targeting ages 16 and up. Research demonstrates that early employment exposure increases the likelihood for at-risk youth to succeed in the workforce.
- Add back the Youth Board requirement, which was removed the last time WIOA was authorized. Youth boards provide a first-hand perspective, creative ideas, and vital insights that contribute to the success of the program.
- Require states to make data on who is being served by WIOA publicly available and accessible.
Additional Talking Points:
- To ensure self-sufficiency upon emancipation, transition age youth need to be connected to workforce development opportunities and career pathways while they are still in care.
- Yet the Annie E. Casey Foundation report on Fostering Youth Transitions revealed that fewer than 1 in 4 transition age foster youth (23%) who participate in a federally funded transition service received any employment programs or vocational training.
- Meanwhile, despite their categorical eligibility for services from the federal government’s largest workforce development program (WIOA), just 6,024 current and former foster youth receive a WIOA-funded academic or career service each year – approximately 2-3% of the eligible population.