Workforce Policy

Centering Black Perspectives in WIOA Authorization Conversations 

As the House debated the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s reauthorization, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies consistently insisted and will continue to advocate that representatives consider the systemic barriers to economic security that Black Americans’ experience. We urge the Senate to address the law’s implications for Black communities when they vote.

According to the United States Department of Labor, “[t]he Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law on July 22, 2014. WIOA is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.” If implemented fairly across the country, this law could provide many life-changing economic opportunities and benefits for Black workers.

We are fortunate that our research and recommendations on WIOA influenced policymakers in Washington through this law’s lifespan. Most recently, the House Committee on Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) included two of the Joint Center’s recommendations in the reauthorization legislation for WIOA just before the legislation passed in the House in mid-May. They are: 

  • WIOA must compensate Black workers shouldering the opportunity costs of training. For instance, many training programs operate during traditional work hours, requiring participants to give up income to receive training.
  • WIOA must invest in data systems that track program-level outcomes for Black workers. Most evaluations of training programs do not report and analyze outcomes by race—a missed opportunity to advance equity and improve workforce programs for Black workers.

These recommendations are some of the core tenants of our October issue brief, Principles to Support Black Workers in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by Joint Center Workforce Policy Director Dr. Alex Camardelle. In this brief, Dr. Camardelle also made the following recommendations:

  • WIOA guardrails must be put in place to protect Black workers from occupational segregation. The Joint Center’s analysis of data from the Department of Labor shows stark racial segregation in the jobs and careers Black workers take once completing WIOA-funded training.
  • WIOA must explicitly acknowledge discrimination in hiring and in the workplace. WIOA-funded programs can help job seekers address challenges in the labor market like identifying discrimination and reporting it to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Black job seekers must share power with workforce system decision-makers. The exclusion of Black job seekers as leaders in the workforce system has a direct impact on decision-making around resource allocation, the selection of eligible training providers, service implementation, and performance measures and reporting.

From our organization’s inception, the Joint Center has been on the vanguard of research that prioritizes federal policy’s impact on Black communities nationwide. As workforce policy experts who prioritize the well-being of Black Americans, we hope that all policymakers that are responsible for WIOA reauthorization are committed to prioritizing Black American workers’ unique experiences in the labor market.