ERIC Identifier: ED448967
Publication Date: 2000-12-00
Author: Beaulieu, Lionel J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Rural Education and Small Schools Charleston WV.
Rural Schools and the Workforce Investment Act. ERIC Digest.
The "Workforce Investment Act" (WIA) of 1998 authorized the establishment of
one of the most comprehensive workforce improvement programs ever enacted. It
will have significant impacts on rural areas, including rural minority
populations such as American Indians and Alaska Natives, Latinos, and migrants.
Local schools can help shape WIA because of the principles of local
participation, increased skills for workers, and improved youth programs.
WIA is intended to mobilize states and localities to design and implement
creative employment programs for current workers, potential employees, and local
employers. It is also intended to strengthen the knowledge and skills of public
assistance recipients, such as those receiving food stamps, so they can compete
more effectively for better-paying jobs.
This Digest focuses on WIA's major elements, with particular reference to the
role rural schools can play in influencing the local and statewide
WIA'S PURPOSE AND STRUCTURE
WIA embodies four major goals:
(1) investing in efforts that increase participants' employment, retention, and
earnings; (2) increasing occupational skills of those entering the workforce
investment system; (3) helping improve worker quality to enhance America's
workforce productivity and competitiveness; and (4) reducing welfare dependence
by giving individuals skills to move effectively into the workforce.
States were required to begin implementing WIA by July 1, 2000. Once the WIA
system was in place in a state, the "Job Training Partnership Act" (JTPA) ended;
local workforce investment boards superseded JTPA's Private Industry Councils
ROLE FOR RURAL SCHOOLS IN LOCAL WORKFORCE INVESTMENT
By studying the underlying elements associated with the Workforce
Investment Act of 1998, school administrators and faculty should envision
themselves as key players in the implementation of this act at the local level.
Given the wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experiences that they bring to the
table regarding youth development, school officials can play a major role in
helping design workforce development and training models that best fit the needs
of local youth being targeted as part of the WIA legislation. Information about
various boards and planning mechanisms in which rural educators could
participate is outlined at the end of this Digest.
Furthermore, rural schools possess a host of resources that are rarely
present in other locally-based institutions. These include a significant pool of
well-educated faculty, meeting facilities, state-of-the art computer technology,
educational materials, courses, and engaged parents and business leaders. Such
assets can position rural schools to be central players in the delivery of
programs that facilitate the preparation of youth for entrance into the world of
work. Among the activities that schools could provide to WIA targeted youth
include: enhancement of study skills through after-school tutoring; career
exploration, guidance and development; job shadowing, mentor-ship, and
internship programs; and placement in summer employment opportunities.
At the same time, WIA offers schools a unique opportunity to step up their
role in supporting a broader array of workforce improvement activities intended
for adults living in their communities. Since many workforce investment areas
that have been established in states encompass a large number of counties, many
rural adults needing the services of a one-stop center may be physically located
too far from such a facility. But, these individuals are likely to reside within
a reasonable distance to a rural school. This suggests that rural schools can
serve as key sites for extending core, intensive, and training services to local
adults, particularly during the evening and weekend periods. This can be
realized if school administrators are willing to support the notion that rural
schools are vital resources that must be used to support the broader economic
and workforce development needs of the communities in which they are located.
PROGRAM COMPONENTS OF PARTICULAR INTEREST TO RURAL EDUCATORS
WIA focuses on youth, particularly those with economic, physical, and social
challenges. WIA tries to marshal resources to help youth progress educationally
and obtain workplace skills.
WIA makes youth councils into subgroups of local workforce investment boards.
The councils comprise board members with expertise or interest in youth
development or policy. Other members may include representatives of
youth-serving organizations (including educators and juvenile justice agencies),
local public housing authorities, Job Corps representatives, parents of youth
seeking assistance, persons with recognized experience in youth activities, and
youth. Local workforce investment boards, in consultation with chief elected
officials from investment areas, appoint council members.
The youth council is the major architect of the local board's strategic plan
for youth. The council also submits recommendations to the board regarding
eligible providers of youth activities and oversees providers' services.
Youth programs and services target low-income youth aged 14-21 who fall into
at least one of the following categories: deficient in basic literacy skills,
dropout, behind in grade level, disabled, pregnant or a parent, homeless,
runaway, foster child, criminal offender, or in need of added assistance to
complete an education program or acquire and retain employment. At least 30
percent of funds devoted to youth initiatives must be dedicated to assisting
local youngsters who are not enrolled in school.
Entities selected as providers of youth programs and services must promote
educational progress and/or workforce preparation. WIA states that targeted
youth must have the following opportunities:
* tutoring, study skills training, and instruction that result in completion
of high school (includes drop-out prevention activities)
* access to and involvement in alternative high school programs
* work experiences, paid or unpaid, with area employers, including organized
internships and job shadowing programs
* summer employment opportunities that promote academic and
* appropriate occupational skills training
* linking youth with adult mentors for at least one year
* comprehensive guidance and counseling to help youth make informed choices
regarding academic and/or occupational pursuits
* leadership development to build self-confidence and the capacity to work
with others (includes community service and peer-centered activities that
encourage positive, responsible behavior during non-school hours)
delivery system for adults.
WIA's one-stop delivery system is aimed at adults and dislocated workers aged
22-72. Every local workforce investment area must have a one-stop center located
within that local area. These could be operated in conjunction with school
family service centers. Affiliated sites, which also could be located in
schools, may offer physical, electronic, or technological access to the area's
The one-stop system contains three levels: core services, intensive services,
and training services. Core services are available to anyone aged 22-72, but
individuals must meet certain conditions to gain access to intensive or training
"Core services" include:
* outreach activities by one-stop operators to orient adults and dislocated
workers to information and services available through the one-stop center;
* initial assessment of the skills, aptitudes, and abilities;
* career counseling, job search, and job placement assistance;
* access to accurate employment statistics for local, regional, and national
labor markets (includes job vacancies, skills needed for these jobs, local
occupations in demand, and the wages and skill requirements for these local
employment slots); and
* information on local support services, such as child care and
transportation, and referral to these services.
"Intensive services" are limited to unemployed adults who have been unable to
find employment after using the core services. The one-stop operator must
designate such persons as being in need of more in-depth job-related assistance.
Intensive services also are offered to employed individuals who may need
intensive services to secure or retain jobs that could give them economic
self-sufficiency. Intensive services include comprehensive and specialized
assessments of individuals' skill levels and service needs; development of
individual work plans, group counseling, individual counseling and career
planning; and short-term vocational services, including communication and
interviewing skills, punctuality, and work conduct.
"Training services" are limited to adults and dislocated workers who, in the
judgment of one-stop operators, need more in-depth services than those offered
as part of "intensive services." If resources for an adult employment and
training program are limited, the local workforce investment board must request
that one-stop operators give priority to low-income individuals and public
The process for establishing local training services is important. First, the
one-stop system operator must develop a list of eligible training providers and
information on past performance and costs for their training services. Each
qualified adult then selects a training services provider from the list and is
given an individual training account (ITA) to help pay for the program that best
meets his or her needs or interests. WIA lets states establish reciprocal
relationships so one-stop providers can accept ITAs from other states.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR RURAL PARTICIPATION IN DECISION
State workforce investment boards. Each governor established a state
workforce investment board. The board's chair and a majority of members
represent state businesses. Other members include chief elected local officials
and legislators, as well as representatives from labor organizations;
youth-serving organizations (such as schools); community colleges and
community-based organizations; the lead WIA state agency; and state agencies
with related missions.
Responsibilities of these boards include (1) assisting the governor in
developing a detailed five-year statewide workforce investment plan, including
activities that address needs of special populations, such as low-income youth;
(2) monitoring the workforce investment system and exploring strategies to
refine state activities; (3) designating local workforce investment areas and
reviewing plans by local workforce investment boards; (4) determining the
formula for allocating WIA funds to workforce investment areas; and (5)
developing and improving state performance measures, including documenting how
needs of special populations have been met and whether participants and
employers are satisfied. The state board also must help the governor develop a
statewide labor market information system outlining current and projected
employment opportunities, skills required for capturing employment
opportunities, workforce skills and economic development needs, and the types
and availability of workforce investment activities.
workforce investment areas and boards.
Choosing local workforce investment areas is largely the purview of each
governor and state workforce investment board with input from local elected
officials (such as county supervisors/commissioners) and other public entities,
such as schools. Functions of local boards include submitting to the governor a
strategic plan for local workforce investment; selecting one-stop operators and
providers of youth services; identifying and approving eligible providers of
training and intensive services; preparing a budget; overseeing activities;
helping develop performance measures to document progress toward meeting local
workforce needs; helping develop a local labor market information system; and
challenging employers to hire individuals who have sought help from the local
one-stop services system, particularly those from special populations.
The 1998 "Workforce Investment Act" empowers
local areas with a major voice in shaping WIA. The success of this landmark
legislation depends on active involvement and commitment of school, community,
and business leaders, government officials, organizations, and citizens
representing all segments of the community. Rural schools have a crucial role to
play in WIA, helping to respond to local workforce needs and providing services
to local youth and adults.
LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE WIA
The following Web-based
resources were available at the time of publication of this Digest. This list
will be kept up-to-date in the on-line version of this Digest
Interstate Conference of Employment Security Agencies, Center for Employment
Security Education and Research.
John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.
National Alliance of Business.
National Association of State Workforce Board Chairs.
National Governors' Association Center for Best Practices.
National Youth Employment Coalition.
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration
(15 November 1999).