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By Chris Opfer
June 30 — The Labor Department June 30 unveiled a pair of final rules to implement a wide-ranging federal job training law.
The rules are aimed at carrying out the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which updates and streamlines federal job training programs for the first time in more than a decade.
WIOA reauthorizes 33 job training programs, requires state workforce development agencies to create a unified job training plan and adopts a standard performance metric for assessing program results.
The rules, which soon will be published in the Federal Register and take effect 30 days after that, are intended to bolster coordination among federal, state and local government agencies.
“Today, we have a stronger foundation to connect Americans of all walks of life to in-demand careers and ensure that businesses have access to the skilled talent that will help grow their business and the U.S. economy,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement after the rules were made public.
Training and apprenticeships is one of the few labor areas in which policy makers on both sides of the aisle generally agree. WIOA and the implementing rules are intended to fight unemployment by making training programs more nimble and giving program administrators more flexibility to prepare workers for employment in new and evolving industries.
The ETA rule is meant to integrate training programs and ensure that they're designed to give workers the skills that employers need.
WIOA requires states to develop unified plans based on local needs for all programs authorized under the law. Those plans are, in part, meant to create a network of “one-stop centers” in which job seekers can take advantage of a variety of program offerings through what the Labor Department calls “a common front door.”
Those shops, as envisioned by the DOL, would offer basic services such as job listings and labor market information, as well as individual comprehensive skills assessments and career planning assistance. Service providers are also expected to help participants develop individual employment plans to help them set and meet their goals.
The rules particularly emphasize the value of apprenticeships and other work-based experience and training opportunities. The law also gives priority to low-income workers, as well as those receiving public assistance and those deemed as “lacking basic work skills.”
Common performance accountability measures would also be implemented under the ETA rule to gauge whether programs are effective.
The standards would measure whether participants transition to unsubsidized employment, what they earn and whether they attain postsecondary credentials. The metric would additionally consider measurable skill gains and the effectiveness of programs in meeting employers' skill needs.
The ETA rule also emphasizes services for disconnected youth, those between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and don't have jobs.
The rule would more than double the share of youth formula program funds allocated specifically for out-of-school youth, from the current 30 percent to at least 75 percent. WIOA also adds a requirement that at least 20 percent of local formula funds be spent on work-based training, such as summer jobs, on-the-job training and apprenticeships.
Proposed versions of the rules garnered more than 1,250 public comments. Many stakeholders praised the Labor and Education departments for trying to knock down walls between individual training programs that are designed to serve the same workers.
The DOL also plans to issue guidance to help state and local government agencies carry out their responsibilities under WIOA and the implementing rule.
The joint Labor and Education departments' rule would implement activities that the agencies share responsibility for under Title I of WIOA. It would also specify requirements for unified and combined state plans, performance accountability and the one-stop system.
The rule is designed to help interweave services through one-stop shops and share data about program participants and performance.
WIOA was the result of bipartisan negotiations in both chambers of Congress. Republicans have criticized the Labor Department since that time for what they say were unnecessary delays in drafting the implementing rules.
“We are pleased that workers, employers, and taxpayers will finally have the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of a modern workforce development system,” Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said in a statement June 30. “However, it’s a shame that it has taken this long for the administration to do its job and implement these critical reforms.”
The Education Department also unveiled separate final rules to implement WIOA's Title II—which pertains to the Adult Educational and Family Literacy Act—and to conform the rules of state Vocational Rehabilitation Services programs and the Education Department's Rehabilitation Services Administration programs to WIOA.
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