The past couple of months have been big for workforce development programs, especially those serving at-risk youth. Along with the release and implementation of the final rules under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $80.3 million in YouthBuild grants.
YouthBuild programs are mandatory partners of the WIOA One-Stop system. So, this expansion of the YouthBuild program will inevitably impact many of the nonprofits and state and local agencies providing workforce development services. So, what should you know about the WIOA final rules and expanded YouthBuild Grants? Keep reading and we’ll give you some starting points.
First, a little background for those who may be unfamiliar with the YouthBuild program. YouthBuild is a non-profit organization that provides education, counseling and job skills to unemployed youths between ages of 16 and 24. The program aims to provide students with marketable job skills while building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in their neighborhoods and other community assets such as schools, playgrounds, and community centers.
The YouthBuild program has five components: construction, education, counseling, leadership, and graduate opportunity. Students alternate spending each week either on a construction job site or in a YouthBuild classroom working to complete a GED or high school diploma. Counseling resources help participants address challenges associated with difficult life circumstances. Leadership development is integrated throughout program activities, and program graduates are supported as they transition into college and sustainable employment opportunities.
While YouthBuild programs are required to raise part of their budgets from a non-federal source, their primary funding source is the federal YouthBuild Grant program which was reauthorized and expanded by WIOA and is administered by the Employment and Training Administration at the DOL.
WIOA has pushed significant shifts in the focus of workforce programs generally, and youth-oriented programs like YouthBuild grant recipients. First, the legislation and final rules have shifted the focus towards serving out-of-school youths. Specifically, the percentage of funds required to be spent on out-of-school youths has increased from 30% to 70%. That means that youth programs being funding by WIOA grants, including YouthBuild grants, may need to increase their recruitment of out-of-school youths. They should also spend time evaluating their programming to make sure it specifically addresses the needs of and helps drive outcomes for out-of-school youths.
WIOA includes a major focus on providing youth with work experience. Youth programs must spend a minimum of 20% of their funding on work experience. This dovetails nicely with programs like YouthBuild that combine on-the-job training with classroom educational programs and other experiential training and development.
One-Stop partnerships have been emphasized in the WIOA regulations, including the requirement of YouthBuild to be a mandatory One-Stop partner. This means that YouthBuild programs may work with One-Stop partners in identifying potential YouthBuild participants, and they will certainly work with One-Stop partners to place YouthBuild graduates in postgraduate training and employment opportunities. As the YouthBuild Community of Practice blog points out, “As you consider the development or enhancement of your own One-Stop partnerships, consider including an assessment of One-Stop Center case management capacity, presence of youth case managers, and ability to address an array of student needs in your partnership planning.”
Mandatory partnerships also include certain cost-sharing requirements. So, it will be important for both One-Stop programs and partnering YouthBuild programs to understand state and local funding mechanisms that determine the cost share of required partners. (The Employment and Training Administration webinars are a great place to start!)
The WIOA final rules introduce five new youth program elements: financial literacy, entrepreneurial skills training, services that provide labor market and employment information about in-demand industry sectors or occupations available in the local area, activities that help youth prepare for and transition to postsecondary education and training, and education offered concurrently with and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster. Most of these elements are already present in the YouthBuild program to some extent, but the financial literacy element may be new for many programs.
Social Solutions has a bunch of great resources for workforce development that can give you insight into managing, tracking outcomes, and evaluating your programs. Check out some of our other workforce resources, including our webinar on Developing a Strategy for Effective Employer Engagement.