California’s WIOA

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

August 2, 2022

The Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides federal funding for state programs that offer training and employment services to eligible state residents. Every four years, all states must submit a State Plan report on how it used (and plans to use) those funds, emphasizing how they contributed to furthering or achieving economic and workforce development (EWD) goals.


California filed its latest report in 2019, which set out its intentions for the following four years (2020-2023). Although it pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic, it sets a clear moment-in-time snapshot of the state of the State’s economy in that year. The data it furnished can be used as a baseline for future analysis and action on many critical EWD elements, such as:

the extent to which the State accomplished those pre-pandemic initiatives in the intervening three years;

the impact of the pandemic on the EWD system itself – which sectors grew? Shrank? Disappeared? Appeared?;

the EWD system’s short-, mid-, and long-term responses to pandemic-driven disruptions;

the emergence of new sectors, industries, or economies that the 1029 report didn’t include,

and more.

California’s plan offers not just a view of how far it’s come in developing its EWD structure but also acts as a road map as to where it plans to go in the future, with or without the intervention of a public health crisis.



WIOA State Plan Structure

Each state reports general information about its workforce and economic development activities. In addition to asking about the State’s vision and goals, strategy, and operational activities, the report also calls for:

an economic analysis,

workforce analysis, and

an analysis of its workforce development, education, and training activities.

As of the report’s publication date, California asserted that it had weathered and recovered from the ‘Great Recession’ of 2007-2009 and was building new economic activities and opportunities on that seemingly stable foundation.

Significant statistics from the report act as a juxtaposition to where the State finds its economic status today:


Economic Analysis – 2019


California’s unemployment numbers were at a 30-year low due to a decade of significant economic growth and its corresponding employment boom.

That job growth expansion was the longest in State history after World War II.

The workforce demographics were changing as the predominantly White Baby Boomer generation continued exiting the workplace to be replaced by a more racially and economically diverse younger crowd.


Ten of the 11 major industries in the State added jobs throughout the February 2010 – October 2019 period, with the most growth seen in the education, health, and professional and business services industries. Only the mining and logging sector lost jobs over the course of that decade.

Overall, the State’s economy grew by 23.8% over those ten years. Individual industries surpassed that growth rate, with construction expanding by over 58%, hospitality and leisure by 37.4%, and business services by 34%.

Of the State’s 14 Regional Planning Units, eight surpassed one million new jobs between 2010 and 2019.

Based on this data, California’s EWD policies and practices generated a bright economic future for the state and its residents.


Workforce Analysis – 2019

This section examines employment and labor market trends, education and skill levels, and skill gaps among employed and unemployed people.

Even then, the state’s economy was in flux as companies and industries emerged and faded, with technology and innovation opening new opportunities while changing the nature of skill sets and competencies.

Technology, in particular, was eroding decades of job security as more machines took over routine and mundane business chores. At the same time, those software programs needed coding, tuning, and maintenance, giving rise to a demand for a new set of digital skills that transcended all industry lines.

Employee ‘churn’ was rising. During that decade, approximately 30% to 40% of the U.S. workforce changed jobs, leaving employers with the cost of hiring and training replacements. This phenomenon was particularly notable in low-skilled and inexperienced workers.

The demand for some amount of post-high school education was also on the rise to land a quality job. ‘Middle skills,’ those requiring more than a diploma but less than a four-year degree, were growing in demand, and organizations were raising wages for well-qualified middle-skilled workers.

The labor market analysis revealed that the State’s recovery had been uneven, with some regions experiencing significant gains while others did not. Regions with strong industry sectors were doing better economically than their less industrial neighbors. The report concluded that changing labor and market conditions required building new, sustainable career paths for workers at all levels of the economy.


Workforce Development Activities – 2019

This response details the activities and efforts of 17 state-wide initiatives in the workforce development sector. Loosely organized into three categories, the initiatives direct government, public, and private resources toward solving EWD challenges and building a more robust economic future:


Business, Workforce, and Employment Development Activities

At the state level, the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) advises the Governor on EWD concerns. Building policy based on EWD, labor force, and industrial data, the CWDB also informs the work of 49 Local Workforce Development Areas and their corresponding Local Workforce Development Boards. The State Employment Development Department administers federal employment-related funding streams and maintains employment records for over 17,000,000 workers.


Training and Education

California’s 115 Community Colleges provide training and education sources for 2.1 million students annually. Administered by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, collectively, they offer 8,000 certification programs, 350 unique fields of study, and more than 4,500 associate degree programs. The California Employment Training Panel provides funding for businesses looking to train new hires or upskill their current labor force. The State Board of Education oversees the curricula, materials, assessments, and accountability activities for California’s K-12 school system. MEanwhile, the Department of Education manages Career Technical Education (CTE), special education, English Learner and Support Division, and the Coordinated Student Support Division.


Specific Population Programs

Special populations receive dedicated funding and attention, depending on their needs and goals. The 2019 WIOA State Plan includes information on the education and workforce opportunities for people with disabilitieslow-income familiesseniorsveteransNative Americansfarmworkers, and more.


In California, hundreds of agencies employing thousands of workers offer support and guidance to millions of employed or wanna-be employed people. All follow a similar track through these federal and state-level policies to generate a stronger, more robust economic outlook for the state. Come 2023, It will be interesting to read in the State Plan how the State fared in its actual EWD activities during its 2020-2023 term.


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