Title I – Workforce Investment Systems
This section defines the terms to be used throughout the bill and contains key definitions such as “basic skills deficient” to indentify individuals below and 8th grade standard of reading, math and writing skills. There are 53 definitions that qualify terms used to refer to the specific circumstances of workers that require training and the organizations that may train them. The key provision of the Workforce Investment Act is that the training and administration happen on a local level, so as to better indentify and understand key areas were the workers are skill deficient.
Chapter 1 provides for the establishment of State Workforce Investment Boards, created by the governors of each state to direct policy related to the Workforce Investment Act. The text stipulates that the board represent a variety of economic interests and areas of the state. The State Workforce Invest Boards are responsible for assessing the viability and success of the program and preparing annual assessments on the progress of employee training. These reports must identify the needs of the state in terms of skills and opportunities for workers. The State must also develop procedures for the disbursement of federal funds and work in consultation with local officials. Additionally the state has the right to administer drug tests to program participants and sanction offenders as necessary.
Chapter 2 deals with Local Investment Areas and how state authorities, with consultation from the State board and local officials might designate these areas. The text of the law suggests basing these areas around educational institutions, areas with high demand for skilled labor and accessibility to the most amounts of potential workers. This area is subject to performance evaluation so as to maximize the funding allocated to training workers. Local Investment Areas may encompass the entire state if that state is “small” as defined in the text of this bill.
There must be an additional Local Workforce Investment Board to administer to the Local Investment Area with the funding allocated by the State Board. As stipulated in Sec. 117, this board must include local business leaders, executives and educational officials, representatives of labor organizations and elected officials. This board is also tasked with oversight responsibility to ensure the maximum efficiency is attained in the disbursal of funds to various training programs. These boards must also develop a “local plan” that describes the:
– Workforce investment needs of businesses, jobseekers, and workers in the local area
– The current and projected employment opportunities in the local area
– The job skills necessary to obtain such employment opportunities
The report must also include assessments of services available to displaced and unskilled workers and the success of community youth programs.
Chapter 3 and 4 provide for the consolidation of services into a “one-stop“option for convenience and administrative efficiency. It sets out regulations that define organization eligible to provide job training, youth activities and other organizations eligible for workforce investment funds. For example, provisions on youth activities recommend that eligible organizations provide training, mentoring and emotional support. Program elements should include tutoring, summer employment, leadership development and counseling. The identification of these elements are key for the board to decide on disbursing funding and the law goes into great detail about what organizations involved in workforce investment must achieve.
Title I also provides for national job programs such as Job Cops, Migrant and Seasonal Worker skills development and specialized programs for Native Americans. There are provisions to provide technical assistance to individual states and to initiate pilot programs for future use.
Title II – Adult Education and Literacy
This part of the Workforce Reinvestment Act is a joint governmental initiative to increase literacy amongst adults so that they may improve their lives and the education potential of their children.
Individuals covered by Title II are 16 or older, are not enrolled in secondary school, lack the English proficiency or necessary educational skills to function as effective members of society. Title II provides funding for organizations that work to increase adult literacy and a parent-child educational relationship. Grants are disbursed on the basis of a number of eligibility requirements with some restrictions on geographic location and population served.
There is an accountability system to measure if participating organizations are performing up to standard and making a meaningful impact on adult illiteracy. Like Title I, the local and state governments must produce plans for the disbursement of funds and ensure that the program operates as intended. Local administration is key to Title II and educational institutions apply for grants on the local level.
The remaining three titles provide for the establishment of national statistics to track the progress of the Workforce Reinvestment Act and provide incentives for states to meet federal standards for program success. There are provisions for a national Job Corps that aims to place qualified in employment opportunities that provide for long term skills growth. Lastly, emergency fund are set up to deal with disaster areas that may need to administer to dislocated workers in times of crisis.
Strengths of the Workforce Reinvestment Act
The primary strength of the Workforce Reinvestment Act is the local synergy of business, education, labor and political leaders to develop strategies to administer federal funding. An appropriate amount of regulation and administration is in place to prevent waste and abuse and the annual reporting on the progress and status of funds spent by the program enable the federal government to keep track of the program budget. Local determination helps tailor each program uniquely to meet local labor market needs that in turn benefits the long term prospects of local businesses and industry.
The “one stop” concept is also a useful administrative practice and encourages administrative efficiency in the disbursement of funds and relevant services to unskilled workers. The literacy programs of Title II represent long term investments in educational capital by increasing the proficiency of adults, with hopes that this has a residual effect on the literacy and education of their children.