Media Highlights

It’s Time (Way Past Time) to Reauthorize WIA

by Melanie Anderson   •  

With all the welcome attention lately on CTE and apprenticeships, Opportunity Nation wants to make sure another vital program stays front-and-center in discussions about how to prepare a stronger workforce: the Workforce Investment Act.

WIA is long overdue for improvement. Reauthorization of this major law would be a great step forward for teens and young adults who are currently not connected to school or work or at risk for becoming disconnected.

What is WIA?

WIA is the largest single source of federal funding for U.S. workforce development opportunities. It sends nearly $3 billion each year to states help adults, displaced workers and youth receive skills training and get jobs.

Low-income youth ages 14-21 are currently eligible for WIA services. They include foster children, runaways, homeless, pregnant or parenting teens and post-adjudicated youth.

(Learn more about our proposals to update WIA.)

How can it be better?

Currently, most teens and young adults accessing WIA services have already dropped out of school and struggle with low levels of basic literacy. Opportunity Nation believes students deserve earlier interventions to prevent them from joining the ranks of an estimated 5.8 million “disconnected” youth who are struggling to secure a foothold in the 21st century economy.

Opportunity Nation wants to see early warning systems that identify struggling high school students before they drop out included in WIA, as well as efforts to urge youth who have dropped out to re-enroll and complete high school.

We support:

  • Flexible schedules and multiple pathways to graduation;
  • Dual enrollment programs that enable students to receive college credit while they earn a high school diploma;
  • Increased Advanced Placement courses; and
  • Work-based learning that help prepare students for fulfilling and productive careers.

Our coalition also supports changes to WIA that would better measure program effectiveness and include pay-for-performance strategies to ensure positive results.

The Time is Now

Opportunity Nation recognizes that WIA has failed to keep pace with changing economic conditions and is in desperate need of improvements. Instead of focusing on short-term training programs as it was initially designed to do in 1998, the program now must adjust to provide longer-term training aligned to high-growth and emerging industries.

We believe these efforts must be part of a dynamic partnership among educational institutions, state workforce boards and local employers, to ensure regional jobs can be filled.

Until now, attempts to reauthorize this important bill have failed. Opportunity Nation and our partners advocate the swift passage of an updated WIA and believe that there is now enough momentum to pass a bipartisan bill in 2014.

Our message to Congress is clear: Our youth cannot afford any more delays. Reauthorize WIA now!


Melanie Anderson Melanie Anderson is the Director of Government and External Affairs at Opportunity Nation. She directs the campaign’s government relations and policy efforts. Read Melanie's bio.

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