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Putting WIOA to Work

An Action Plan for CEOs To Leverage the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Business leaders have a new resource to take full advantage of the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The report, “Putting WIOA to Work: An Action Plan,” lays out how CEOs can make best use of the law’s emphasis on business involvement. In other education news, BRT released a computer application that will help CEOs make the case for the Common Core State Standards. The app, Biz4Readiness, for iTunes at the iTunes store and for Android at GoogleApps.

Executive Summary

Maintaining competitiveness in today’s economy requires a more skilled and educated workforce than ever before. Today’s jobs are complex and highly specialized — and are growing more so as the rate of technological advancement increases. Specialized skill sets are required to obtain 85 percent of jobs created since 2000. Sixty-five percent of jobs will require postsecondary education and training by 2020.

Unfortunately, many in the U.S. workforce do not have the mix of skills that employers need. This skills gap is large and growing larger: 4.2 million jobs remain open, while 9.5 million workers remain unemployed.3 The situation is not improving. If current trends persist, the United States will be short approximately 5 million postsecondary-educated workers by 2020.4 Absent concerted action to close this skills gap, the United States will struggle to compete for decades. Fortunately, several efforts are under way, in both the public and private sectors, to address this threat.

The recent reauthorization of the 1998 Workforce Investment Act, now called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), is a bipartisan, bicameral effort to address many of the causes of this gap. For example, the bill streamlines services offered by one-stop career centers to eliminate the confusing “sequence of services” that made accessing training more difficult for many job seekers. It also requires state workforce development boards (WDBs) to create statewide workforce development strategies that target regional goals and business needs.

Additionally, the bill reduces the size of state and local WDBs and requires a majority of the board members to be business representatives, increasing the voice of employers in determining where and how federal dollars should be spent in workforce development.

WIOA affords business leaders a variety of opportunities to ensure that workforce development is aligned with their specific needs, including collaborating with WDBs in developing statewide strategies to use valid state and local program performance metrics to gauge results. WDBs can also help WIOA’s efforts to target youth employment by offering and expanding programs such as on-the-job training, apprenticeships and internships.

The legislation provides an opportunity to leverage Business Roundtable’s efforts on behalf of the National Network of Business and Industry Associations. The National Network is an organization of leaders across major economic sectors working to improve economic opportunity and quality of life for Americans by better connecting the working world and the learning world. Led by a collaborative partnership between Business Roundtable and ACT Foundation, the National Network is committed to helping individuals understand and gain the skills they need to enter into and succeed in the jobs of today and tomorrow. To date, it has produced a model for competency-based apprenticeships that use industry-recognized credentials instead of completing a fixed number of hours of work to assess apprentices’ acquired competencies. The National Network also has recently released the Common Employability Skills Set for All Jobs, which identifies the fundamental skills employees need to be successful and a common vocabulary to explain them. The National Network continues to explore ways to achieve its goals.

This brief is designed to inform CEOs about how they can leverage the new WIOA to benefit their companies. It also outlines other opportunities for CEOs to help close the skills gaps facing their operations.