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Summer 99 Table of Contents
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The Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

By Ron Lucey, Consumer Resources Coordinator, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

Public Law105-220, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), was signed into law by President Clinton on August 7, 1998. The WIA is the single greatest overhaul of the nation's workforce system since the original passage of the Wagner-Peyser Act more than 55 years ago. This broad-reaching law coordinates many federal and state employment programs under a single delivery system. The wide array of employment, job search, and training services is delivered locally through the one-stop workforce center. In Texas there are presently 102 local one-stop workforce centers. Each full service one-stop center offers universal employment services to the general population including individuals with disabilities.

One of the most significant changes under WIA is the provision for local control of the workforce system by an employer driven Workforce Development Board (WDB). The chief elected local official, either the mayor or county judge, appoints the board members for each workforce board. More than half of the Workforce Development Board must include representation by local employers. Other WIA required partners represented on the board include local education agencies, labor, higher education and vocational rehabilitation.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state agency responsible for statewide WIA implementation. WIA statewide planning activities are the responsibility of the Texas Council on Workforce and Economic Competitiveness (TCWEC). The state Council members are appointed by the governor and mirror the representation of the local workforce development boards. However, a grandfather provision of WIA allows states who choose early implementation of WIA to retain their existing state and local workforce board structures. Texas has chosen to become an early implementation state; therefore, vocational rehabilitation is not represented on the Council.

WIA includes the Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act in Title IV, which is implemented by the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Under WIA, the vocational rehabilitation system remains a distinct and separate program more closely coordinated with the workforce system. The workforce provisions contained in Titles I, III and V are implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor. Title V is implemented in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.

The Workforce Investment Act titles include:

Title 1 Workforce Investment Systems

Title 2 Adult Education and Literacy

Title 3 Workforce Investment-Related Activities

Title 4 Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998

Title 5 General Provisions

The WIA seeks to change the status quo of the nation's workforce system through seven key principles:

  1. Streamlining of services through the integration of multiple employment and training programs delivered by the one-stop service centers;
  2. Empowerment of individuals with the information and resources they need to manage their own careers through Individual Training Accounts and better information on service providers and the skills demanded by employers;
  3. Universal access to a core set of career decision-making and job search tools for all job seekers;
  4. Increased accountability of the delivery system to achieve improved results in job placement, earnings, retention in unsubsidized employment, skill gains, and occupational/academic credentials earned;
  5. A stronger role for local boards and the private sector emphasizing strategic planning and oversight of the one-stop delivery system;
  6. State and local flexibility to ensure that delivery systems are responsive to the needs of local employers and individual communities;
  7. Improved youth programs that strengthen linkages between academic and occupational learning and other youth development activities.

WIA authorizes several youth activities that include many of the same services provided by TCB's Transition program. Youth activities include enrichment programs, education and employment related activities, mentoring, training, continued supportive services, recognition and achievement incentives, and opportunities for activities related to leadership, development, decision making, citizenship and community service.

Local youth councils are appointed by each Workforce Development Board to plan youth employment opportunities. WIA requires the state plan to describe the State's strategy for providing comprehensive services to eligible youth, especially those having significant barriers to employment.

The employment provisions of WIA require the promotion and development of employment opportunities, job counseling, and placement of people with disabilities. The Texas Workforce Commission must describe how the state will serve the employment and training needs of individuals with disabilities. WIA also requires the state plan to include provisions for cooperation between the state's vocational rehabilitation agencies and employment services. The plan must describe procedures to be taken by the state to assure coordination and avoidance of duplication between the employment service and vocational rehabilitation.

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) is working with WIA partners at the state and local level to coordinate the delivery of employment services to blind and visually impaired job seekers. The development of memorandums of understanding at the state and local level will designate responsibility for service delivery and clarify each partner's role in the workforce system. The expected result of this process will be an improved and more accessible workforce system. The success of WIA and its key principles will be measured in part by how well it serves those individuals requiring more intensive employment services and accommodations including persons with disabilities.

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Last Revision: September 4, 2003