The Workforce Investment Act was passed and signed into law in acted in 1998. It combined many federally funded work training programs into one act including the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (landmark legislation that vastly improved vocational services for individuals with disabilities). The act replaced the Job Training Partnership Act and gave local councils the power to direct funds toward specific needs in their area. During this time the governor Locke issued Executive Order 99-02 to empower the act in our state by forming a state workforce Investment Board and establishing local workforce development councils patterned after the JTPA. Vocational Rehabilitation has a unique place in Workforce Development as a silo program to respond to workforce needs and to support individuals with disabilities seeking training and assistance in finding work.
This year Congress passed the “child” of WIA called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and was signed into law on July 22, 2014. “This act strengthens the public workforce system and the partnerships that sustain it, by unifying and streamlining services to better serve job-seekers. It will improve accountability and transparency within the system. It will elevate work-based learning strategies like Registered Apprenticeship and sector strategies that address the needs of multiple employers within an industry. It will foster coordinated planning within economic regions. And it addresses the needs of veterans and of other populations facing unique economic challenges, including out-of-school youth, people with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.” (taken from the DOL website)
For Vocational Rehabilitation the emphasis is on youth and providing work training to high school youth prior to graduation. Here is an excerpt from the Dept. of Education (OSERS- Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services) webpage:
HIGHLGHTS OF CHANGES TO REHABILITATION ACT PROGRAMS
Increases Services to Youth with Disabilities: Throughout WIOA, especially in the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, there is a significant emphasis on the provision of services to youth with disabilities.
To that end, WIOA:
Emphasizes the need for youth with disabilities to have more opportunities to practice and improve their workplace skills, to consider their career interests, and to get real world work experience.
Requires State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies to make “pre-employment transition services” available to all students with disabilities.
Requires State VR agencies to set aside at least 15 percent of their Federal VR program funds to provide pre-employment transition services to assist students with disabilities make the transition from secondary school to postsecondary education programs and competitive integrated employment.
Allows State VR agencies to prioritize serving students with disabilities.
Allows State VR agencies to support advanced training in STEM and other technical professions.
Dedicates half of the Federal Supported Employment program funds to provide youth with the most significant disabilities with the supports they need, including extended services, to enable them to obtain competitive integrated employment.
Supports Employer Engagement: WIOA contributes to economic growth and business expansion by ensuring that the workforce is job-driven, matching employers with skilled individuals.
WIOA places strong emphasis on employer engagement across all programs.
There are increased opportunities under the VR program to assist employers in providing work-based learning experiences for individuals with disabilities, including participation in apprenticeships and internships.
VR State agencies will describe in their State plans how they will work with employers to identify competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Emphasizes Competitive Integrated Employment: WIOA places significant emphasis on obtaining competitive integrated employment, especially in the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act.
WIOA promotes competitive integrated employment in all of its programs, especially the VR and Supported Employment programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act.
VR program services are designed to maximize the ability of individuals with disabilities, including individuals with the most significant disabilities, to achieve competitive integrated employment through customized employment, supported employment, and other individualized services.
The VR State plan must ensure that priority is given to individuals who are otherwise eligible for VR program services and who are at imminent risk of losing their jobs unless they receive additional necessary post-employment services.”
The whole government website is rather wonky, I know but the law does provide a definite shift in how workforce training and supports for the unemployed can be matched with the industry clusters in a particular area of the country. What will work in Buffalo won’t work in Honolulu – I doubt there is training on driving show removal equipment on Waikiki.
Local workforce development councils have the opportunity to radically change the system to improve the delivery and transparency of services to those who desperately need job training if their industry or business suddenly closes or who have not finished high school and need of a GED and training.
What I like about the change is the focus on high school students transitioning into the adult world of work – youth 19-15 had the highest unemployment of any age group and people with disabilities have the highest unemployment rate of any group. Providing services to students with disabilities to obtain needed job internships and other training and support to find a job is money well spent in my book.
CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside
This space is intended to share my thoughts and update the community on issues concerning Morningside and its clients as well sharing inspirational employment stories.
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