WIOA – Federal Policy Drives EWD Effort

Pam Sornson, JD

August 2, 2022

Coordinating multiple social systems to achieve a common goal is a challenge. That challenge is made bigger when those systems exist in multiple regions, have multiple layers of stakeholders, and the ultimate goal for all is the economic success of the country.

Despite its complexity, this IS the challenge for the federal, state, regional, and local agencies tasked with implementing economic and workforce development initiatives. United by an overarching constellation of policies and practices, they’re crafting the educational, industrial, and social services network that is expected to drive the economy of the future while ensuring economic success for the country’s citizens and residents.

Policy at the Federal Level: The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – WIOA

The WIOA came into effect in 2014 as the first legislative reform of the public workforce policy since 1998. Its funds facilitate training and education support services to both job seekers and employers, uniting the skill sets of one with the labor demand of the other.

Primarily, WIOA’s purpose is to align the work of the diverse workforce and economic development agencies with the federal policy of building a strong labor force in every state. It sets publicly accessible performance goals and encourages regional collaborations, so each business, entity, and government can work, for the most part, in harmony with each other toward the same end.


… Coupled with Services

But WIOA and its accompanying federal agencies are also invested in providing direct services to the workforce development sector. Perhaps WIOA’s most valuable assets these days are its employment and job training resources, administered through the federal Employment and Training Administration (ETA). This 2,400-strong network of service providers spans the national workforce development environment, helping workers at all stages of their careers find the jobs they want and employers to find the labor force they need.

The array of services available through the ETA is impressive:

The American Jobs Center system acts as a nexus between workforce and employment. Its program areas encompass support for individual workers (veterans, dislocated, laid-off, youth, etc.) while also offering services related to apprenticeships, certifications, re-entry needs, and other employment-related concerns.

CareerOneStop offers career guidance and training resources for employment seekers with unique challenges. Some are related to their particular status; entry-level workers55+ workersyoung adults, and previously incarcerated people can all find resources specific to their concerns to help them find the job they want. Notably, while the guidances and employment information resources are uniform for everyone, their job listing and training opportunities are categorized by state. The resources are relevant and helpful for workers across the country.

The Apprenticeship center leverages employment opportunities with hands-on training to provide the most relevant form of ‘work-based learning’ (WBL). These roles offer a myriad of benefits to both the worker and the employer, in addition to the WBL capacity:

They are paid jobs, not volunteer opportunities, so learners earn while they train.

They can (and often do) consist of both work-based training and classroom education, so apprentices gain both practice and theory.

They facilitate critical mentor relationships between the apprentice and their employer, often becoming a foundation for a long and fruitful working partnership.

They generate the credentials needed to qualify for other jobs within an industry. ‘Stacking’ credentials earned in apprenticeships advances a career since many careers these days require mastery of multiple skillsets.

The agency’s ‘MyNextMove‘ portal guides those who haven’t yet decided on their next employment step and offers both personal interest surveys and career and industry resources to help worker-wannabe’s pursue an occupation that suits them well. In partnership with industries and companies around the country, the Apprenticeship center provides a ready-made foundation for many careers and jobs.

JobCorps is the most extensive residential career training program in the nation, working for 50 years to support people ages 16 through 24 years to finish high school, obtain job training, and ultimately find gainful work. High school students can direct their personal interests and skills toward one or more of the country’s top ten high-growth industries. With this credential as a foundation, these young people will have already launched their life-long career path.

State-based training providers – Each state maintains an ‘Eligible Training Provider List’ (ETPL) that compiles the names and contacts of those entities receiving federal funding for their training services. Workers seeking training can find no-cost options through their state’s ‘America’s Job Center’ (AJC) (California’s agency is here). These providers also offer local and regional labor market information and a variety of employment-related materials designed to connect people who want jobs with the employers who need them.


… and Funding

Not least significant to the ETA’s function is its administration of millions of dollars worth of federal grants. These funds tie directly to the regional and local agencies tasked with upskilling and retraining their local unemployed clients. Grant recipients can access training and trainee guidance ‘best practices’ to ensure their beneficiaries receive the best possible service.

The grant funding also facilitates the wages offered to apprentices through the Apprenticeship program.


… And More

Another resource available through the ETA is its ‘WorkforceGPS‘ website which provides more granular data about how to seek, obtain, and administer federal grants directed to economic and workforce development:

Retention and advancement‘ resources offer employers insights on how to optimize their workforce after the hiring and onboarding process is complete. They can also assist those looking for self-employment as entrepreneurs.

Labor market information provides employers, workers, educators, and industries with critical information about how the economy is faring based on earnings, benefits, high-growth sectors, occupation data, and more.

The ‘Communities‘ page collects all available resources onto a single page, so users can find the information they’re looking for and continue to more detailed advice and direction.


The federal policies embodied in the WIOA guide the actions, funding, and decision-making activities at every state level and in the regional and local governments in the communities where the work is actually done. By providing a (relatively) ‘single’ focus on ‘economic and workforce development’ as the primary goal, regional workforce development agencies can pursue their particular goals while also moving forward with this overarching national strategy.





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