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Eight Actions You Can Consider to Support Youth and Adults with Disabilities in WIOA Implementation

President Obama signed the Workforce innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law on July 22, 2014. WIOA maintains a primary focus on assisting job seekers and workers with and without disabilities to succeed in the labor market and match employers with skilled workers who may benefit from education, skills training, employment and support services. The cornerstone of the public workforce investment system remains the American Job Centers (AJC) or “One-Stop Career Centers” at a community or local level. At a state level, WIOA requires unified strategic planning across core programs: Title I Adult programs and services, Dislocated Worker and Youth programs, Adult Education and Literacy programs, Wagner-Peyser Employment Services and Title I of the Rehabilitation Act programs.

Below we offer eight actions you can consider to support youth and adults with disabilities, before, during and after WIOA implementation, along with a timetable of key implementation dates attached as a separate document.

ONE: Become informed and involved in WIOA implementation.

Take the opportunity to review online stakeholder meeting transcripts or participate in future discussions about implementation. Visit the WIOA Resource Page, www.doleta.gov/wioa, sign up for future announcements, and submit questions via email to dol.wioa@dol.gov.

TWO: Become an Active Stakeholder in the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment For Individuals With Disabilities.

By November 2014, the new Advisory Committee should have its members appointed and begin to publicize its activities. This is an extraordinary opportunity to align policy across federal agencies (Labor, Social Security, Education, Health and Human Services) to promote and advance competitive employment opportunities and outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities.

Have a voice in the transition from 14(c) subminimum wage options to expanded choices and work experiences in integrated settings for youth and adults with significant disabilities.

THREE: Improve Effective and Meaningful Participation of Job Seekers with Disabilities in American Job Centers (AJCs).

At a minimum, local workforce investment boards may designate a standing committee to focus on improved program, physical, and communication access to services in AJCs or “One-Stop Career Centers” for persons with disabilities.

Volunteer to serve on such a committee, meet with the board director and offer recommendations and assistance to help improve inclusive and universally designed services.

FOUR: Help Inform Criteria for Certifying AJCs or “One-Stop Career Centers.

State workforce investment boards must establish objective criteria for use by local boards to assess the physical and programmatic accessibility of AJCs or “One Stop Career Centers” and compliance with Section 188 nondiscrimation requirements. Assessment will occur every three years.

Offer suggestions to state and local boards on how to improve customer service and accessibility for job seekers with disabilities including improved coordination with vocational rehabilitation, the Ticket to Work program, education, Medicaid, intellectual and developmental disability and mental health service delivery systems as part of new criteria for effective performance.

FIVE: Promote Financial Literacy Activities for Youth and Adults

Many youth and adults with disabilities face multiple barriers to achieving employment success and economic self-sufficiency. The ability to manage a budget, spending, credit and debt and make informed decisions in the selection of financial products and services are important skills to be gained by all job seekers and workers. The WIOA supports funding at a state level of financial literacy skills building for youth and adult job seekers with and without disabilities.

Begin a discussion with the state Department of Labor and VR agency to build support for funding of financial literacy activities that enhance employment goals. See the recent joint memo for support of financial literacy activities from ODEP and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

SIX: Become Involved in the Unified State Plan Development.

For the first time VR and the workforce development system must work together on a mandatory unified state plan that meets Section 188 protection against discrimination and equal opportunity requirements.

Have a voice in the development of improved coordination of service delivery among multiple systems including workforce development, vocational rehabilitation, Social Security, Medicaid and the Ticket to Work program. Suggest criteria that should be used by the Departments of Education and Labor to review and evaluate state plan submissions that improve choices and support for job seekers with disabilities.

SEVEN: Improve Coordination of Pre-employment Transition Services for Youth.

Fifteen percent of state VR funds must be spent on youth pre-employment transition services.

Suggest approaches to improve collaboration among WIOA youth activities, state and local educational agencies, and VR as well as Medicaid funded supports for youth with significant disabilities. Suggest ways to explore internships and summer job experience for youth with disabilities.

EIGHT: Become part of the solution.

Take the time to better understand your local AJC or “One-Stop Career Center,” what it is and what it’s not.  Improving employment outcomes for job seekers with disabilities often takes a village, and no one agency or system can do it alone. Systems are overwhelmed, and staff overtaxed. 

Become a familiar face and an active partner at your local AJC or “One- Stop Career Center.” Join or create an integrated business outreach team, offer staff training on reasonable accommodation, teach a workshop on self-determination, and/or support an integrated resource employment team approach on behalf of jobseekers with disabilities. 

Most importantly, find out how your knowledge, skills and experience can provide universal support to a universal workforce development system.

 

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