Defining Challenges

Workforce development boards and their education and economic development partners must determine how best to implement WIOA within the context of dynamic labor markets and the competing priorities of the various organizations. The Forum enables workforce boards and their partners to advance their practices to better meet the vision set forth in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. In our work across the United States, NAWB has observed the following areas of practice that present issues or challenges that we must collectively face as we implement the final regulations.

  • Integration of WIOA Titles I, II, III, and IV: WIOA expects states and localities to integrate workforce development, adult education and family literacy, vocational rehabilitation, and Wagner-Peyser services. WIOA also invites integration of other programs, such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). This integration impacts planning, service delivery, co-location, and data sharing. What technological innovations are boards employing to address this challenge? How does the development of unified and combined plans contribute to successful integration of these diverse programs?
  • Local and regional integration and planning: WIOA takes partnerships to a new level, requiring boards to work more proactively with business, industry, and economic development. It also requires boards to look more broadly than their own borders and develop regional plans that better align with common industry/labor/workforce areas. How are successful boards defining their regional planning areas? How does the finding the right labor market information enlighten the planning process? What successful strategies are in use to engage industry, businesses, and economic development and better understand their workforce needs? Where are examples of strong local and regional plans? How has the use of technology strengthened the planning process?
  • Programmatic emphases: While WIOA allows for a variety of programs and services, a number of activities have been emphasized. Career pathways, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and incumbent worker training all must be addressed at the program level. Priority also has been placed on certain participant groups, such as individuals with disabilities, veterans, and returning citizens (formerly incarcerated individuals). With the shift in spending priorities for youth, how can boards continue to serve in-school youth at a lower cost, while creating programs that attract, retain, and successfully serve out-of-school youth? What new technology and tools can support training, assessment, management, and follow up for these programs?
  • Hot-button regulatory issues: There are a number of regulatory issues that arise in almost every discussion about WIOA and the regulations. Boards are challenged to understand and apply OMB grant management regulations, rules around the competitive selection of one-stop operators, firewalls and conflict of interest issues, pay for performance, MOUs, and the eligible training provider list. How can organizations best break down these requirements and determine how best to respond?
  • Performance and evaluation: WIOA rewrites some existing performance standards and introduces a few new ones, while also pressing for evaluations of program success beyond attaining standards. The Act introduces new credential and skills-gain rates for adults and dislocated workers, and adds retention, earnings, and skill-gains for youth. In addition, the federal government is testing out program effectiveness measures for employers, and is re-introducing a regression model to adjust performance standards. How are workforce organizations implementing these measures? What evaluations or ROI formulas should be applied? What has been the impact of applying these measures in the areas of adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and Wagner-Peyser?
  • Role of the Board: WIOA increases the responsibility of the local boards, requiring them to convene partners and funders and develop a unified plan with other key programs; work with industry representatives and education providers to ensure that the region's education and training services meet the skill needs of area employers; and collect and disseminate labor market information to ensure that the region's programs and services remain focused on in-demand industries and occupations. What is the best way for boards to build relationships with their chief elected official, and how can they best negotiate an effective working relationship? Internal issues are also important, such as ways to building more effective workforce boards and workforce board staff, recruiting board members, developing meaningful board agenda, crafting policies, understanding legal issues, engaging board members in workforce board efforts, professional development strategies, as well as staff recruitment and retention practices. Beyond these internal challenges, what are the keys to successfully researching and writing grant proposals and managing the subsequent grant funds? How can boards excel at leadership development and succession planning?

“I’ve been coming to the Forum for 18 years. I bring our board members to learn about current workforce trends so that we can make continuous improvements to our system.”

~ Nick Schultz, Executive Director, Pacific Gateway Partnership, Inc.