Every four years, local and state workforce organizations pull their partners together, evaluate all their programmatic participant data, review the workforce development strategies in their community, and write a 4-year Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) plan. WIOA plans serve as a community guide for serving America's most vulnerable populations. This includes individuals with disabilities, previously incarcerated, homeless, single parents, opportunity youth, individuals historically in poverty or low income, and others.
WIOA plans are an opportunity to evaluate what’s working and identify necessary changes. Unfortunately, they are often developed quickly to check the box of compliance, versus truly being a document of strategy.
While WIOA plans do have specific requirements that need to be included, this year feels a bit different under legislative complications. Chiefly, the need to reauthorize the original WIOA that was passed in 2014. WIOA continues to see funding cuts (as much as 20% in two years) and proposed budgets in Congress have the potential to decrease funding further, or even eliminate programs altogether. This would be detrimental to America's workforce system, as nearly 60% of all workforce funding comes from WIOA.
This is why some states are taking the approach of developing WIOA plans that not only check the box, but showcase their understanding of worker shortages, talent retention and development needs, and the economic impact of their work. With a question mark surrounding the future of WIOA, 2024 WIOA plans represent an opportunity for local and state workforce organizations to provide real insight into their community’s strategy.
We’ve been partnering with these organizations to ensure they demonstrate the full impact of their programs and also to outline strategies that will propel their community forward. Here are three ways Lightcast is helping local workforce organizations prepare their WIOA plans.
Quantifying the economic impact of WIOA programs
A Lightcast economic impact study (EIS) allows us to collect various participant data on key WIOA programs including adults, dislocated workers, and youth, and using our proprietary model, demonstrate the return on investment of that specific program.
Such an analysis allows a workforce organization to gain a true understanding of their impact on both the individual participants and the community. This provides a baseline for improvements, specifically to ensure participants are seeing increased earnings after exiting a WIOA program.
Granular studies of worker shortages, talent attraction, and other labor market trends
Before, during, and after the Covid pandemic, communities have tried to understand the causes of their worker shortages. In Lightcast’s 2021 study, Demographic Drought, we laid out the various trends contributing to the shortages. Since then, we’ve continued to monitor these trends and developed best practices for communities to tackle this challenge.
Recently, Lightcast conducted a study for the state of Minnesota, looking at these trends and the causes of their specific worker shortages. This helps the leaders to understand what’s happening specifically in their state and what populations to focus on in an effort to increase labor force participation.
Minnesota ranked #46 in Lightcast’s 2022 Talent Attraction Scorecard, but now has the data behind their worker shortage struggles to develop needed strategies. Lightcast can conduct custom studies for your state or community to identify the specific challenges in your workforce and generate tailored recommendations.
Sector strategies, asset mapping, skills gap analysis—all with actionable recommendations
When developing a WIOA plan, there are specific requirements such as a community asset map and demonstrating a viable sector strategy. It’s not enough to simply choose five industries of focus and try to place workers in those industries. Lightcast examines granular, industry-specific data to provide insights on sub-industries, supply and demand of talent, demand for specific skills, and more.
Lightcast skills analysis not only helps you understand skill gaps in your community but does it through the lens of building a more equitable workforce. We evaluate the supply of talent based on race, gender, and age to identify equity gaps and illuminate career pathways for a more equitable workforce. A key strategic imperative of WIOA.
By partnering with Lightcast, you ensure a data-rich WIOA plan, providing community stakeholders and legislators with an accurate picture of the impact WIOA is making on individuals and communities across America.