Enacted by the US Congress in 1998, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is targeted toward reducing unemployment by helping all type of workers find jobs befitting their skills or get them training to qualify for jobs available in their community. Although funded on the national level, WIA programs are administered by the states through local agencies such as Central Arizona Governments, the agency created through the partnership of Pinal and Gila Counties.
Nationwide the WIA program provides job training to economically disadvantaged adults and youth, while providing employers with a workforce trained through community colleges, vocational schools, on-the-job training (OJT), and work experience. Key elements to the WIA program are community linkages, individualized training, and service placement. Eligible participants have the opportunity to enhance their employability to compete for the jobs and meet the current needs of the local labor market. These include:
• Individualized case management/career planning to provide job development and job placement.
• One-Stop Centers provide fully equipped resource room for job search activities (telephone for making appointments, computers for completing resumes and employment applications, access to local, state and county job banks, etc.).
• Assessment testing – vocational aptitude and ability testing to assist in career decision making and for training/employment matches.
• Job search and self-sufficiency workshops to produce skills and job search and job retention.
• Basic education and GED preparation – computerized academic training through open entry/open exit classes based on individual need.
• Applicable support services (work clothing, child care, transportation needs, medical/dental/vision needs, etc.).
A key feature of WIA is the One-Stop Delivery System for workforce investment activities. This is a system where entities responsible for administering separate workforce investment, educational and other human resource programs and funding streams collaborate to create a seamless system of service delivery designed to enhance access to the programs’ services and improve long-term employment outcomes for individuals receiving assistance. Besides adults, youths and dislocated workers, this system also serves the special needs of veterans, senior citizens and Native Americans; and oversee employment and training activities connected to the US Department of Urban Development and community services block grants.
Administration of WIA in Arizona is provided by the state Department of Economic Security (DES). Oversight functions include fiscal tracking, participant data tracking, reporting to the US Department of Labor, monitoring the Local Workforce Investment Areas and local service providers for compliance and quality issues, providing training and technical assistance to the system and policy interpretation and development.
Pursuant to federal law, 95 percent of WIA funds are allocated to Local Workforce Investment Areas, with the remaining 5 percent available for discretionary purposes such as administration, statewide initiatives, and competitive grants for employment and training programs.
Core WIA services overseen at the local level include:
• Determining eligibility to receive assistance under WIA Title I
• Outreach, intake and orientation to the information and other services available through the One-Stop delivery system
• Initial assessment of skill levels, aptitudes, abilities, and supportive service needs (child care and transportation and referral to other services as appropriate)
• Job search and placement assistance and where appropriate career counseling
• Provision of employment statistical information relating to the local, regional and national labor market areas and provision of performance information and cost information on eligible providers of training services, youth activities, adult education, post-secondary vocational education, vocational education activities available to school dropouts, and vocational rehabilitation, and
• Information regarding filing claims for unemployment compensation.
One-Stop Centers under the Pinal/Gila partnership are located in Casa Grande and Globe.
On May 21, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the US Senate to overhaul the WIA law. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 would both streamline and update the program. New standards for performance after training will be required. For instance, a person taking an adult literacy program under WIA will not be considered trained if he just learns to read. He must prove retention of information required to hold a job. More emphasis will be placed on securing employment for high school dropouts and disabled people.
States, which receive funding based largely on levels of unemployment, will also have to submit a strategic plan showing how they will coordinate training, education, and vocational rehabilitation (services for people with disabilities). The system will become more tailored to individuals, instead requiring that everyone follow a rigid “sequence of services” before they are trained. Bureaucratic rules for managing the program will be simplified.