Workforce Investment Act:

Youth Provisions Promote New Service Strategies, but Additional Guidance Would Enhance Program Development

GAO-02-413: Published: Apr 5, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2002.

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The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 substantially changed the way youth workforce development services are configured and delivered. The act requires states and localities to create a more comprehensive workforce system for development needs. The act promotes partnerships among diverse programs and community representatives through participation on newly created state and local workforce investment boards and youth councils. GAO found that most youth councils nationwide included the required members and nearly all councils were active by July 2000. Local boards competitively chose youth service providers and developed strategies for one-stop centers. Most boards reported that services were provided through contracted service providers rather than one-stop centers. However, local boards had difficulty getting parents and youth to participate on youth councils. Some local areas found it difficult to identify and select youth service providers because of low response to requests for proposals. Getting youth to visit the typically adult-focused one-stop centers was also difficult. Youth councils linked with the education community by including representatives of local school districts and existing school-board career programs in their membership or as youth service providers. Moreover, secondary and postsecondary schools contracted to deliver mentoring and occupational skills training. Some educators, however, were hesitant to broaden their role in youth development beyond traditional academics and saw few financial incentives to partner with the youth council. GAO found three legislative requirements that impeded service delivery. First, eligibility documentation requirements may have excluded eligible at-risk youth from services. Second, difficulties in recruiting and retaining enough out-of-school youth to meet the 30 percent requirement that local funds be spent on these youth. Third, ambiguous definitions and lags in data availability resulted in inconsistent reporting and when comparing outcomes within and across states.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the availability of information of WIA youth programmatic, administrative, and other implementation issues and to enhance implementation of state and local workforce investment systems, the Secretary of Labor should issue guidance and provide assistance to state and local boards and youth councils by developing and disseminating strategies to recruit and retain out-of-school youth to the WIA youth program and all youth into the one-stops.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed with this recommendation. It issued guidance in May 2002 (TEGL 28-01), which addresses strategies for recruiting and retaining out-of-school youth.

    Recommendation: To improve the availability of information of WIA youth programmatic, administrative, and other implementation issues and to enhance implementation of state and local workforce investment systems, the Secretary of Labor should issue guidance and provide assistance to state and local boards and youth councils by developing and disseminating strategies to obtain and verity applicant eligibility information by sharing client information among agencies or using existing electronic databases (for example, DOL should consider exploring methods to extend eligibility automatically for WIA based on an applicant's participation in other programs).

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed with GAO's recommendation and issued the Workforce Investment Act Data Validation Handbook, which includes a discussion on streamlining eligibility documentation.

    Recommendation: To improve the availability of information of WIA youth programmatic, administrative, and other implementation issues and to enhance implementation of state and local workforce investment systems, the Secretary of Labor should issue guidance and provide assistance to state and local boards and youth councils by developing and disseminating strategies to increase the number of responses to competitive requests for proposals by encouraging youth-serving organizations new to WIA to participate in the youth program and promoting new ways of collaboration among new and existing service providers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed with this recommendation and addressed the issue in its youth policy guidance letter (TEGL 28-01), issued in May 2002. The guidance discusses outreach to faith-based and other underutilized community-based organizations to promote greater participation in youth service delivery.

    Recommendation: To more objectively assess state and local area performance and youth progress, the Secretary of Labor should clarify the definition of skill attainment for younger youth to ensure consistency in reporting.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed with this recommendation and has sponsored Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Learning Exchanges to share best practices on skills, assessments, and credentials. However, because Labor planned to implement common measures beginning in program year 2004, it focused on preparing new reporting guidance rather than clarifying current WIA measures. The skill attainment rate will be replaced by the literacy/numeracy measure and attainment of degree or certificate. Labor issued final guidance on the new common measures in December 2003.

    Recommendation: Through collaboration with the Department of Education, state education agencies, and other experts, the Secretary of Labor should develop and disseminate strategies to effectively link workforce and education activities, such as exploring workplace learning principles in the classroom and connecting schools to the one-stop centers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed with this recommendation and has sponsored the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Learning Exchanges to share promising practices on strengthening partnerships. The agency also said that it is working with the Department of Education on three major initiatives that would more effectively link workforce and education activities: (1) coordinating WIA and Perkins Vocational Education reauthorization; (2) developing alternative education models; and (3) incorporating the No Child Left Behind Act into the workforce system.

    Recommendation: To improve the availability of information of WIA youth programmatic, administrative, and other implementation issues and to enhance implementation of state and local workforce investment systems, the Secretary of Labor should issue guidance and provide assistance to state and local boards and youth councils by developing and disseminating strategies to effectively recruit and engage parents, youth, and business community representatives on the youth council.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor issued guidance in the form of a Youth Council Toolkit, which addresses strategies for effectively recruiting and engaging parents, youth, and business members on the youth council.

    Recommendation: To improve the availability of information of WIA youth programmatic, administrative, and other implementation issues and to enhance implementation of state and local workforce investment systems, the Secretary of Labor should issue guidance and provide assistance to state and local boards and youth councils by developing and disseminating strategies to facilitate linkages between the board and youth council and their required youth-serving partners.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Labor agreed with the recommendation and issued the Youth Council Toolkit, which includes modules on creating effective youth councils and retaining key youth council members.

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