In July 2014, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) the first update to the nation’s core workforce training programs in 16 years. The new law recognizes the need for new strategies and reauthorizes the nation’s employment, training, adult education, and vocational rehabilitation programs created under WIA in 1998. Read a summary of the key provisions of WIOA from CLASP and a side-by-side comparison of WIA and WIOA from the National Skills Coalition for more information.

Funding Sources


As the U.S. federal government is embroiled in budget making chaos, its easy to fall back into the familiar "there is no money" refrain. Funding might be difficult to secure, but there are two groups of funders looking for communities working together to improve outcomes for "opportunity youth". Other organizations are helping individuals think creatively about revenue and funding sources. Check the following resources for more ideas...

     National Youth Employment Coalition

     Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund
     National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth
     A Bridge to Reconnection: A Review of Federal Funding
     Youth Transition Funders Group
Aspen Forum for Community Solutions has identified 21 communities who are working together for opportunity youth. These communities will receive funding and support to expand their efforts to reconnect youth and young adults. What are these communities doing? They:
            1. Collaborate for impact
            2. Build effective programs and pathways
            3. Use data to guide decision and assess impact
            4. Leverage funding to support and sustain innovation
            5. Develop supportive policies.
Read more about how community wide partnerships and initiative can come together for opportunity youth...
"Eduployment: The bifurcation of school and work, education and employment, college  and career is out of date and meaningless. We need to use a both/and rather than an either/or framework in going forward. We call this eduployment."
This policy brief outlines the importance of and strategies to keep highly at-risk youth in school, connect them to meaningful work experiences, and help them succeed in postsecondary education. Read the Policy Brief...


"While many youth become disconnected from education and employment, we  believe that with the right interventions and supports, these young  people could begin to change the trajectory of their lives. Businesses  can play an important role in making this happen and can help these  youth get on a pathway to a better
And businesses benefit from  this work, too. Companies already involved in programs that serve this  group of youth describe a range of positive outcomes resulting from  these activities, including increases in employee engagement, customer  loyalty, and employee retention."
This toolkit, created in collaboration with the White House Council for Community Solutions, helps employers support young people with three "lanes" of employment programs. More information...

In a new KIDS COUNT policy report, the Casey Foundation finds that nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are neither in school nor in the workforce. With employment among young people at its lowest levels since the 1950s, these youth are veering toward chronic unemployment as adults and failing to gain the skills employers need in the 21st century. In addition to new national and state data on the issue, the report offers recommendations to support youth in gaining a stronger foothold in the economy. Kids Count website...
The Department of Labor details the WIA Youth program in a new publication. WIA Youth services are designed for youth who are low-income, in- or out-of-school, aged 14-21 with one or more of the following barriers to employment: (1) deficient in basic literacy skills; (2) a school dropout; (3) homeless, a runaway, or in foster care; (4) pregnant, or parenting; (5) an offender; or (6) an individual (including a youth with a disability) who requires additional assistance to complete an educational program or to secure and hold employment. These youth are eligible to receive services to prepare them for post-secondary educational and employment opportunities, attain educational and/or skills training credentials, and secure employment.

This program is designed to improve the long-term job prospects of young people by providing basic skills, work readiness skills, occupational training, and citizenship skills. Local communities collaborate and establish partnerships, bringing together local workforce training providers, schools, community-based organizations, and other entities. WIA calls on local areas to create opportunities for youth that integrate key programmatic components such as preparation for post-secondary opportunities, linkages between academic and occupational learning, connections to the local job market, and appropriate follow-up services.
One key to thriving in a competitive global economy is a properly skilled workforce that can innovate, create new products and services, and bring them to market quickly and efficiently. America remains a leader in innovation, but its workforce is falling behind. Education and workforce development systems have not kept pace with the demands of the 21st century, and we all bear the costs of this failure. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2012 report on the skills gap reviews the issues and solutions discussed at regional forums of business and community leaders. Full Report

As jobs that require only high school or less have disappeared, postsecondary education and training on the job and in schools have become the gateways to the middle class. Most postsecondary education and training discussions focus on the baccalaureate pathway, but there has been an increasing interest in so-called “middle jobs.” These are jobs that require education and training beyond high school but less than a
Bachelor’s degree, and secure middle-class earnings.

A recent report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce lists high wage "middle" occupations and the five major pathways at the subbaccalaureate level that are most often required for entry: employer-based training, industry-based certifications, apprenticeships, postsecondary certificates, and Associate’s degrees. 

Read more about these occupations and training options...

The White House Council for Community Solutions issues their final report on strategies to address the needs of opportunity youth. The recommendations address: cross-sector community collaborations, shared national responsibility and accountability, engaging youth as leaders in the solution and building on-ramps to employment.

The Council details the need for national and community level solutions. The most critical:
  * Integrated services and wraparound supports in workforce and education systems 
  * Alternative education and employment pathways
  * Advanced credentialing opportunities

Read the complete report..