Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Vulnerable Youth: Overview of Issues Affecting Youth Programs Authorized Under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara
Specialist in Social Policy
The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA, P.L. 105-220) is the primary federal law that provides job training and related services to unemployed and underemployed individuals, including vulnerable young people with barriers to employment. All youth job training programs and related services are authorized under Title I of WIA and administered by the Department of Labor (DOL). These programs include the WIA Youth Activities formula program, Job Corps, and YouthBuild. The Job Corps program was established in the 1960s and is the oldest federal job training and employment program (among recent programs) for young people. Under the pilot and demonstration authority in Title I, DOL has also carried out the Reintegration of Ex- Offenders program for both youth and adults. Although the programs have distinct activities and goals, each of them seeks to connect eligible youth to educational and employment opportunities, as well as leadership development and community service activities. WIA authorized funding through September 30, 2003; however, WIA programs continue to be funded through annual appropriation acts. Both the Senate and House of Representatives have taken steps toward reauthorizing WIA since the 108th Congress.
This report provides an overview of issues that have been raised by stakeholders about youth programs authorized under WIA. First, some policymakers have proposed consolidating these and other workforce programs to make them more efficient and less costly. Other stakeholders assert that at-risk youth and other groups with barriers to employment would be overlooked under such a consolidation. Another issue is the perceived lack of coordination between the workforce system and other systems that serve youth, such as the education system. Stakeholders have suggested that greater coordination can help meet the varied needs of youth, as intended by WIA. Members of Congress and others have also continued to inquire about the effectiveness of programs that serve youth in meeting their objectives and serving the most at-risk youth. To date, only an impact evaluation of Job Corps has been completed; however, DOL recently awarded a contract to a social policy research organization to conduct an impact evaluation of YouthBuild.
In addition to these broader issues, Congress is interested in issues specific to Youth Activities and Job Corps. Youth Activities provides funding for youth employment and training services overseen by a state workforce investment board (WIB) and the governor, in coordination with local WIBs and community organizations. The program targets youth ages 14 through 21 who are low-income and have one or more barriers to employment. Since the start of the program, policymakers and others have discussed the extent to which youth have had to prove their eligibility for the program. Some local workforce investment boards have reported challenges with documenting income and other eligibility criteria, and some proposals would establish different methods for determining eligibility. Further, stakeholders have raised issues about whether the program should focus more on out-of-school youth. Local workforce investment boards have reported challenges recruiting and retaining these youth. Related to this is the age of youth who ought to be eligible for the program. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) temporarily enabled youth ages 22 through 24 to access services under the program. Whether WIA ought to target these older youth, particularly in light of the possible cost of doing so, could be addressed in any reauthorization legislation. Congress has considered proposals to provide federal funding for states to operate Job Corps centers, as a state option, or to close centers. This is due to concerns that the program has had mixed performance outcomes, and that some centers are low performing.
Date of Report: April 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R42583
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