Data Critical in WIA Reauthorization

by Rachel Zinn
May 21, 2014

Today, House and Senate leadership released the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislation would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which was due for reauthorization eleven years ago.

The negotiated reauthorization bill could be brought to the Senate floor this week or sometime after the Memorial Day recess. The legislation would reauthorize several programs, including formula grants that support the American Job Center system, employment services, adult education and vocational rehabilitation.

Data and accountability are central in several parts of this legislation, including:

Revised performance system. The bill makes all its programs accountable for the same core metrics: employment (or education for youth) after program exit; median earnings; credential attainment; measurable skill gains; and employer engagement.

WDQC supports the use of common metrics and data definitions across multiple programs to facilitate collaboration and reporting of system-wide outcomes.

Performance reports. The Departments of Labor and Education, according to the bill, must work together to develop templates for states, local areas and training providers to report program outcomes. Training providers must report key outcomes for all their students, not just those receiving funding through a WIA program.

Supporting the public reporting of program outcomes is an essential part of WDQC’s policy agenda. These required performance reports are an important step toward giving students, workers and policymakers the information they need to make informed choices.

Wage record requirement. The bill carries over language from current law requiring the performance measures to be calculated using Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records. However, it appears that the language would apply to all programs in the bill, including adult education and vocational rehabilitation. In current law, only Title I programs are subject to this requirement.

Using wage records as the primary source of data on employment outcomes is one of WDQC’s legislative recommendations. Other sources, such as post-program surveys, are time-consuming and can be unreliable, especially for tracking long-term outcomes.

Evaluation. The bill directs states to conduct ongoing evaluations of workforce programs, and adds a new requirement for states to cooperate with federally-run evaluations. Also, the bill adds new mandates for the Department of Education to carry out research on adult education and literacy, and an independent evaluation of adult education programs at least once every four years.

Labor Market Information. A new Workforce Information Advisory Council is established in the bill. The Secretary of Labor must formally consult with the Council at least twice a year to address the evaluation and improvement of the nationwide and statewide workforce and labor market information systems. The Council, appointed by the Secretary, would include state experts on workforce programs, labor market information and economic development, as well as representatives of business and the research community.