Workforce Investment Act:

Better Guidance Needed to Address Concerns Over New Requirements

GAO-02-72: Published: Oct 4, 2001. Publicly Released: Oct 4, 2001.

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A competitive national economy depends on providing individuals with marketable skills and employers with access to qualified workers. In the past, the nation's job training system was fragmented and did not serve job seekers or employers well. The Workforce Investment Act in 1998 created a system that links employment, education, and training services to better match workers and labor market trends. The act represented a significant change from earlier workforce development efforts. Many of the act's provisions took effect in July 2000, and state and local organizations are at different stages of implementing them. Although the act's mandatory partners are making efforts to participate in the one-stops, programmatic or financial concerns are affecting the partners' level of participation as well as their ability to fully integrate their services at the one-stop. As implementation of the act progresses, training options for job seekers may be diminishing rather than improving, as trained providers reduce the number of courses offered to job seekers. Private-sector representatives may be discouraged from participating on workforce investment boards as a result of how states and localities are operating their boards and associated entities.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress allowed local areas to request additional time for training providers to stay on the training provider list.

    Matter: To ensure that training providers are not unnecessarily withdrawing their course offerings, Congress may wish to allow training providers to remain on the list of eligible providers for another year without meeting all the data collection requirements while they work with state and local implementers to explore ways to resolve data collection difficulties.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education participated in ETA's One-stop Readiness Workgroup with the federal partner agencies such as HHS and HUD. This group has developed a set of suggested strategies for addressing key issues, and developed a Training and Information Notice, dated November 2001, that described the suggestions collected during the meetings. DOL awarded a grant to the State of Illinois to create an online promising practices database which contains information from all partner programs (www.promising-practices.org).

    Recommendation: To facilitate the implementation the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), as well as to help state and local implementers move closer to the vision of a fully integrated system, the Secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development should jointly explore the specific programmatic and financial concerns identified by state and local implementers that affect their ability to fully integrate their services at the one-stops, and identify specific ways in which these concerns can be overcome.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HUD participated in ETA's One-stop Readiness Workgroup with the federal partner agencies such as HHS and Education. This group has developed a set of suggested strategies for addressing key issues, and developed a Training and Information Notice, dated November 2001, that described the suggestions collected during the meetings. DOL awarded a grant to the State of Illinois to create an online promising practices database which contains information from all partner programs (www.promising-practices.org).

    Recommendation: To facilitate the implementation the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), as well as to help state and local implementers move closer to the vision of a fully integrated system, the Secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development should jointly explore the specific programmatic and financial concerns identified by state and local implementers that affect their ability to fully integrate their services at the one-stops, and identify specific ways in which these concerns can be overcome.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS participated in ETA's One-stop Readiness Workgroup with the federal partner agencies such as HUD and Education. This group has developed a set of suggested strategies for addressing key issues, and developed a Training and Information Notice, dated November 2001, that described the suggestions collected during the meetings. DOL awarded a grant to the State of Illinois to create an online promising practices database which contains information from all partner programs (www.promising-practices.org).

    Recommendation: To facilitate the implementation the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), as well as to help state and local implementers move closer to the vision of a fully integrated system, the Secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development should jointly explore the specific programmatic and financial concerns identified by state and local implementers that affect their ability to fully integrate their services at the one-stops, and identify specific ways in which these concerns can be overcome.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ETA is participating in a variety of activities with the federal partner agencies such as Education, HHS, and HUD. These agencies participated in the One-stop Readiness Workgroup convened by ETA. This group has developed a set of suggested strategies for addressing key issues such as cost allocation and resource sharing, MOU development, and service integration. The group disseminated a Training and Information Notice that described the suggestions collected during the meetings. ETA has joined OMB and the other federal partners in the development of a set of common measures for Federal job training programs, which was issued in a Training and Employment Guidance Letter in December 2003. DOL awarded a grant to the State of Illinois to create an online promising practices database (www.promising-practices.org) which contains information from all partner programs on significant issues.

    Recommendation: To facilitate the implementation the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), as well as to help state and local implementers move closer to the vision of a fully integrated system, the Secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development should jointly explore the specific programmatic and financial concerns identified by state and local implementers that affect their ability to fully integrate their services at the one-stops, and identify specific ways in which these concerns can be overcome.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education is working with DOL to share insights and expertise on postsecondary education to assist them in implementing the eligible training provider requirements. It is also investigating the possibility of supporting some research and demonstration activities that may provide some alternative and more cost-effective methods of measuring the performance of postsecondary programs.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that there is sufficient quality and quantity of training programs and providers available for individuals, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should disseminate best-practice information on cost-effective methods being used by states and localities to collect and report the required training provider data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Federal partner staff participated in the One-Stop Readiness Workgroups convened by ETA. These groups met during the summer and fall of 2001, to share and discuss strategies for addressing key issues such as cost allocation and resource sharing, MOU development, and service integration. Training and Information Notice No. 4-01, "Workforce Investment Act Readiness Workgroup Activities," dated November 14, 2001, was sent to the system describing the suggestions collected during the meetings. Also, as part of its technical assistance activities in connection with WIA implementation, ETA awarded a grant to the state of Illinois to establish and maintain an online promising practices database, which contains information from all partner programs on significant issues identified by the system. ETA released the final version of the One-Stop Comprehensive Financial Management Technical Assistance Guide in August 2002 and posted it on its website.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that there is sufficient quality and quantity of training programs and providers available for individuals, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should disseminate best-practice information on cost-effective methods being used by states and localities to collect and report the required training provider data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to Education, to the extent permitted by existing statutory requirements, DOL and Education are working together to address the confusion created by multiple reporting requirements and to develop common performance definitions across programs. Regarding common definitions, Education worked with OMB and the other federal partners to develop a common set of measures for job training programs administered by 6 federal agencies. These common measures were in a Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) issued to all states on December 20, 2003. The TEGL includes standard definitions and clearer guidance on procedures for recording and reporting performance for the partner programs at the state and local level. This guidance will be fully implemented when Labor institutes a new reporting system. In July 2004, Labor issued a Federal Register Notice on this proposed new reporting system is accepting comments.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that there is sufficient quality and quantity of training programs and providers available for individuals, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should address confusion arising from dual reporting for WIA requirements and those for other educational programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Labor worked with OMB and the other federal partners to develop a common set of measures for job training programs administered by 6 federal agencies. The common measures were in a Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) issued to all states on December 20, 2003. The TEGL includes standard definitions and clearer guidance on procedures for recording and reporting performance for the partner programs at the state and local level. This guidance will be fully implemented when Labor institutes a new reporting system. In July 2004, Labor issued a Federal Register Notice on this proposed new reporting system and is accepting comments.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that there is sufficient quality and quantity of training programs and providers available for individuals, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should address confusion arising from dual reporting for WIA requirements and those for other educational programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Labor worked with the Department of Education to resolve the problem of providing Social Security Numbers (SSN) and to clarify the applicability of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to Title I of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Initial guidance that was issued to the system in January 2001 was rescinded in January 2003 and replaced with guidance from Education indicating that SSNs may be transmitted to state Education agencies or their direct contractors, but not to other state agencies, for matching purposes under Title I. States that believed they were unable to implement the title I requirements under this revised guidance were encouraged to contact Labor to discuss options. Pending WIA reauthorization should even further unify the federal government's position on use of SSNs for this purpose.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that there is sufficient quality and quantity of training programs and providers available for individuals, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should establish a unified federal position on whether Social Security Numbers (SSN) can be provided by training providers to state agencies for the purposes of meeting WIA's data collection requirements, if it is determined that the most cost-effective data collection methods require the use of SSNs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Labor worked with the Department of Education to resolve the problem of providing Social Security Numbers (SSN) and to clarify the applicability of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to Title I of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Initial guidance that was issued to the system in January 2001 was rescinded in January 2003, and replaced with guidance from Education indicating that SSNs may be transmitted to state Education agencies or their direct contractors, but not to other state agencies, for matching purposes under title I. States that believed they were unable to implement the title I requirements under this revised guidance were encouraged to contact Labor to discuss options. Pending WIA reauthorization should even further unify the federal government's position on use of SSNs for this purpose.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that there is sufficient quality and quantity of training programs and providers available for individuals, the Secretaries of Labor and Education should establish a unified federal position on whether Social Security Numbers (SSN) can be provided by training providers to state agencies for the purposes of meeting WIA's data collection requirements, if it is determined that the most cost-effective data collection methods require the use of SSNs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since WIA was enacted in 1998, ETA instituted a number of ongoing efforts to help state and local workforce investment boards understand their roles and responsibilities, operate efficiently, and attract and retain employers. These efforts include "WIA Information and Tools" on its workforce web site, as well as the Workforce Innovation 2003 Conference.

    Recommendation: To help maintain private-sector leadership in the system, the Secretary of Labor should disseminate information on successful practices by states and local areas to ensure effective board operations and the effective operations of their affiliated entities consistent with strong private-sector leadership.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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