The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Researchers have estimated that by 2022, the United States will experience a shortfall of 11 million skilled workers. This shortfall will include 6.8 million workers with bachelor's degrees, and 4.3 million workers with a postsecondary vocational certificate, some college credits or an associate's degree. In 2014 Congress passed and President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—a significant step towards ensuring the development of a more skilled workforce.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

WIOA is a bipartisan law that will improve our nation’s workforce development system and help put Americans back to work.  Now more than ever, effective education and workforce development opportunities are critical to a stronger middle class. We need a system that prepares workers for the 21st century economy, while helping businesses find the skilled employees they need to compete and create jobs in America. WIOA also includes amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, provisions which authorize and improve Federal investment in disability-related workforce training, employment, independent living, and research programs.  WIOA creates:


A streamlined workforce development system by:

  • Eliminating 15 existing programs;
  • Applying a single set of outcome metrics to every federal workforce program under the law;
  • Creating smaller, nimbler, and more strategic state and local workforce development boards;
  • Integrating intake, case management and reporting systems while strengthening evaluations; and
  • Eliminating the “sequence of services” and allowing local areas to better meet the unique needs of individuals.


Greater value by:

  • Maintaining the 15 percent funding reservation at the state level to allow states the flexibility to address specific needs;
  • Empowering local boards to tailor services to their region’s employment and workforce needs;
  • Supporting access to real-world education and workforce development opportunities through:
    • On-the-job, incumbent worker, and customized training;
    • Pay-for-performance contracts; and
    • Sector and pathway strategies.


Better coordination by:

  • Aligning workforce development programs with economic development and education initiatives;
  • Enabling businesses to identify in-demand skills and connect workers with the opportunities to build those skills;
  • Supporting strategic planning and streamlining current governance and administration by requiring core workforce programs to develop a single, comprehensive state plan to break down silos, reduce administrative costs,  and streamline reporting requirements; and
  • Ensuring individuals with disabilities have the skills necessary to be successful in businesses that provide competitive, integrated employment.


Improved outreach to disconnected youth by:

  • Focusing youth program services on out-of-school youth, high school dropout recovery efforts, and attainment of recognized postsecondary credentials; and
  • Providing youth with disabilities the services and support they need to be successful in competitive, integrated employment.


Improved Services for and Employment Outcomes for Individuals with Disabilities by:

  • Defining and prioritizing competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities;
  • Requiring state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies to spend at least 15% of funds for the provision of pre-employment transition services for students with disabilities to ensure post-school success;
  • Introducing limitations on the use of special wage certificates for all entities wishing to employ, at a subminimum wage, all individuals with disabilities under the age of 24;
  • Prohibiting contracts and agreements between school districts and special wage certificate holders to ensure no student with a disability is funneled from a public school to subminimum wage employment; and
  • Creating an Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities within the US Department of Labor.